"Finn had promised her a life free of worry, a good life for her and their children.
Finn had lied."
Amanda Prowse has now written a number of family drama type novels - I've read two, I think, and enjoyed them both. The Art of Hiding is the most recent, published on 18 July this year. It has a rather lovely, striking cover and the synopsis sounded like it would be an enjoyable read.
Our protagonist here is Nina - wife and mother, who we initially meet living a very affluent lifestyle courtesy of husband Finn. The Nina we meet at the beginning of the novel apparently doesn't have that much in her life to worry about (despite a lack of confidence and a general feeling that she doesn't fit in with the other parents at her sons' expensive school), as her main concerns are burning issues like whether or not to take snacks to her elder son's rugby match. Actually, Nina has plenty to worry about.... she just doesn't know it yet.
When Finn is killed in an accident Nina quickly learns that her comfortable life is an illusion. Her husband's previously successful business is bankrupt and there are huge debts. Finn had promised always to take care of her, and after a difficult, insecure childhood Nina was happy to let him do just that, abandoning her aspiration to become a nurse and relinquishing any involvement in the business or their finances. Now, though, her life and that of her two sons, Connor and Declan, is crashing down around her. No longer cushioned by her husband's money, homeless and broke, Nina has to - somehow - rebuild her life without him. And just maybe rediscover some of the aspects of herself that were submerged and suppressed in her marriage.
This is an emotional read, especially the first part of the book. It's easy to relate to Nina's desperation as the full extent of the crisis becomes clear, and there are some painful scenes of her pleading for help from various quarters which is not forthcoming. Indeked, it's hard not to feel angry at the utter lack of empathy shown by, for example, the headmaster of the school the boys have attended since they were three years old. Clearly when the money runs out, so does many people's humanity.
We follow Nina's struggles as she moves, with her boys, back to the area where she grew up and hunts for a job, rapidly discovering that years of marriage and motherhood have not qualified her for very much at all, and see her beginning to question whether - despite her love for her husband - her marriage was quite as perfect as she had thought.
While the basic plot has certainly been done before, Amanda Prowse is a natural storyteller who creates relatable characters and situations and knows how to engage the reader's emotions. If there's a criticism to be made, it's that some of the dialogue doesn't always quite ring true. It's a minor quibble, though, and I enjoyed this a lot. (I was particularly pleased later in the book when it looked like the story was going to go in a certain, overly predictable direction which made my heart sink slightly. Amanda Prowse subverted my expectations, and I appreciated it!)
Up next: Friend Request by Laura Marshall.