Her perfect life became a perfect nightmare…
Emily Freud ~ What She Left Behind
Lauren can’t believe she’s escaped her old life in London for a new start with her partner, Paul, and his two young children. Haunted by her past, Lauren knows how lucky she is: a dream home, a ready-made family. And she also knows how much she could lose.
But as Lauren struggles to adjust to motherhood, her fears grow. She’ll never live up to the ghost of Paul’s perfect wife, or help him forget his grief over her tragic death. And as village rumours begin to swirl about their house in the woods, Lauren feels ever more isolated – despite Paul’s reassurances. She wants to trust Paul – she owes him everything – but how can she, when she can barely trust herself?
As someone who left London to move to the sticks with a man, I knew this was going to resonate with me. Sure enough, Lauren’s fears, struggles and resilience were all recognisable. However, I did not have a dead wife lurking in the background…
The subjects of isolation and gaslighting are handled well, as we really feel Lauren’s worries. She has been forced to step into another woman’s shoes, caring for two small children, Margo and Jesse, who have few memories of their mother, but struggle to adapt to Lauren.
But then it starts to get dark. Jesse starts to talk about another child in the house and rumours abound in the town. Lauren met Paul because of an accident, and her injury and trauma related to that start to come back to haunt her.
What She Left Behind is a real page turner. A lot of the topics have been covered many times before, but the twists and turns Emily includes really keep you guessing. Female narrators are always really good at capturing how being alone can play on your mind, especially when it’s dark and I had goosebumps a lot of the time!
Paul is a typical controlling man, constantly comparing Lauren to his dead wife and belittling her constantly. Nasty piece of work.
I was suspicious about the ending, because of the change in narrator, but only fully accepted what was going on just before it was revealed as it is quite a shocking turn of events! Eliza’s chapters are darker and quite horrific, as we see the true nature of one of the characters. I also liked the softer moments, where Lauren is with the children and the horse, or in the Farm Shop, as they add a glimmer of light and hope to the story.
Well-written and fast paced, with more character development than is usual in thrillers, this book will keep you on your toes and up at night!
What She Left Behind is published by Quercus Books.