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Published September 1st 2020
Where is Vita Casey?
International novel The Hidden Wife by Joanna Rees is the second instalment in the family drama trilogy series, A Stitch in Time. Fans of the book will know that it follows on from Rees' previous publication, The Runaway Daughter.
Book Cover Photo courtesy Pan Macmillan
We pick up the story in 1928 as Vita Casey, once Anna Darton, flees from London to the excitement of the cultural and artistic melting pot of Paris with her best friend, Nancy, to escape from her dangerous and wicked brother Clement. Despite working at the renowned Le Follies Bergere performance club to make ends meet amid Nancy's growing indulgence in drugs, alcohol and parties, Vita continues her dream of becoming a successful fashion designer of intimate apparel - a business she had started in England under the name, Top Drawer.
Just as she believes she has started a new life, marrying wealthy and generous and businessman, Irving King, her life is again is embroiled in a web of secrets and lies. Without realising, Clement's wife Edith (and her one time friend) is planning revenge on Vita after blaming her for maiming her husband and stealing her friend Nancy from her.
Edith's anger is deep and unrelenting. She will go to extreme lengths to inflict pain on Vita, including undermining her designs and blackmailing her new friend, Marie by separating her from her daughter Susan to fulfil her vengefulness. Worst of all, she harms everyone close to Vita, including Nancy and her beloved dog, Mr Wild, to succeed in her plans of showing her husband Clement how clever she is in bringing Vita unstuck. Who can Vita really trust?
Despite the hurtful and vengeful nature of the plot, Vita is a likeable character who I suspect readers will sympathise with and remain hopeful for her dream to create a new existence away from her past. In doing so, the book touches on social themes of racism and homophobia in early 20th century Europe mixed with a generous dose of deceit, adultery, and revenge.
I enjoyed the diverse mix of characters, even the nasty Edith who was well described. But of course, it has left me wanting to read the third book, The Sister Returns, to see what next unexpected trials lie ahead of Vita. In that way, I guess Joanna Rees has done her job and left this reader wanting more. The Hidden Wife is published by Pan Macmillan. About Joanna Rees Joanna Rees grew up in Essex. She currently lives in Brighton with her husband and writing partner, Emlyn Rees. She also writes as Josie Lloyd.