Mary Paulson-Ellis’ first novel The Other Mrs Walker is a family drama, covering the mysteries that need to be solved concerning three generations of the Walker family.
The book jumps over time, in random order, going back and forth between all the characters. From early 1900s London through to modern Edinburgh, the story covers a relatively dark history including asylums, abortion and theft. Throughout the plot a few central objects feature, tying together the seemingly unconnected characters, as they solve mysteries of identity. There are many secrets to be uncovered, and ends to tie, mostly from scattered youthful memories and the present day Margaret trying to piece together clues.
It follows in the same style as many other fiction writers who I’ve enjoyed, such as Kate Atkinson and Kate Morton solving a historical problem through another generation.
I liked the tying together of scenes through objects and the mystery of the intergenerational thread. At times I found the characters hard to connect with or a bit annoying. At times it was hard to keep track of the characters, due to the huge jumping about in time. The characters were relatively unsentimental with each other and not curious about their own family history, which I think I would be in their position. Paulson-Ellis made clear the broken family element of the story.
When I had finished the book I still felt quite unsatisfied in it’s conclusion. I was always curious about how Mrs Penny and Tony and how they came to be in the family. Although the mystery was relatively solved, I was perhaps frustrated with the characters lack of communication with each other in secrets bared. That “Clementine’s sister” should show up at the funeral and yet Margaret did not question where that should fit in.
I found it a good read, eager to read through to find the solving of problems, even if I did find it frustrating at times.