Goodreads: The Women
Publish date: 22 May 2019
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery
The night she moves in with Peter, she’s so happy, so exhilarated, so in love. Later, she will remember a much smaller feeling, a tiny one percent in her gut. And she will remember pushing that feeling aside…Samantha Frayn doesn’t know why Peter Bridges picks her – a nobody with bitten fingernails and a troubled childhood behind her – but she falls quickly. He’s older, charming, likes fine wine and French films, and his beautiful home has real art on its walls. Peter transforms Samantha’s life in an instant. He sees the better version of herself – the one she’s always wanted to be. It’s only normal that there’s a little friction, when she moves in, over domestic matters like where things are kept, or the proper times to eat, sleep and shower. She’s lucky to be with someone who can help her find a new job, move on from childish friends, and speak with greater sophistication. But as Samantha notices, more and more, Peter’s temper, she starts to wonder if there might be consequences to breaking the rules of the world he has so quickly built around her. And then she receives an anonymous note that makes her ask: is she the first woman to feel trapped by Peter? Is she being paranoid, manipulated, or could she be in danger? You can tell the truth about your life, but someone needs to be listening. Someone needs to trust you. And someone needs to save you from the man you thought you loved.
This was a fascinating, slow-burn psychological thriller that packed a powerful punch and tackled a very important issue. The author illustrates well the power of charm and sophistication, and how abusers can manipulate you, get under your skin and into your head before you even know it’s happened.
The story starts off at the end, so we already know that something bad is going to happen. Through the characters’ words and actions, we also know that there’s a deep underlying current of tension, anger and guilt. Peter’s ugly character already begins to shine through in this first chapter, and I knew right off that he’d be the worst kind of character. But on the surface, Peter wasn’t seen as a “bad guy”, which made him one of the most dangerous types of people out there. The ones that can charm and disarm. The ones with a seemingly thick layer of sophistication and perfection that only just masks the teeming ugliness that’s slick under the surface.
The characters were well developed. As we got further into the story, more and more layers of Samantha’s and Peter’s characters are peeled back like layers. When they first meet, Peter is a charming, handsome, and intelligent history professor that has a reputation as a ladies man, but surprises Samantha with how courteous and respectful he is. Their “relationship” moves very quickly; from Samantha visiting his house that first night, to sleeping with him the next, and then moving in with him very soon after that. Peter is persuasive and showers Samantha in compliments and assurances that he has never met someone like her and that she’s his one. However, Peter’s actions slowly become more manipulative and controlling, and I was shocked at the ease in which it happened. Samantha unknowingly relinquishes her autonomy to him and very quickly lets him dictate all aspects of her life. I particularly enjoyed how Samantha’s character grew–going from this naive young woman, to someone dogged by paranoia, anger and shock, and then she takes all that emotion and strengthens herself with it to undertake the “final act”. Her empowerment and determination after meeting “the women” who survived Peter’s abuse, made me feel somewhat giddy, just as much as it made her feel excited and emotionally high in the novel. There were many twists and turns as more of Peter’s past is revealed, and although it wasn’t very unpredictable, I was hooked and wanted to speed through to find out what happens to lead them to that final scene.
What made this book frightening was how realistic the situation is. The relationship between Samantha and Peter sady isn’t uncommon. There were times that I found myself frustrated that Samantha was defending Peter and seemed unwilling to open her eyes to his scumbag ways; but then I realized that in real life, this is the dynamic that exists in these relationships. The abused have their views so warped by the abuser, that they’re unable and sometimes unwilling (for their own sanity) to believe that something so perfect from the start could actually be the worst thing to happen to them. I thought this book was well-written and covered the topic well. Although until recently people haven’t openly spoken about the issue (at least to my knowledge living in Asia), that’s even more reason why it needs to be given greater attention. Especially with the current “Me Too” movement. I was very pleasantly surprised by this story, and I’m looking forward to reading other books by S.E. Lynes!
Thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Have you read The Women or is it on your TBR?