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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: THE WIDOW, Fiona Barton

“So compelling that the pages almost turned themselves”


We've all seen him: the man - the monster - staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

Du Maurier's REBECCA meets WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and GONE GIRL in this intimate tale of a terrible crime.


There are only two books to my knowledge that truly tackle the story of the wife of the perpetrator of heinous crimes. Two books that pose the question: She must have known…mustn’t she? One is my own, Invisible, so when I heard about The Widow I knew I HAD to read it. I wasn’t disappointed.

The author, Fiona Barton, weaves a tale told from several different perspectives, opening her book immediately after the death of her husband, Glenn. As past and present unfold, and as narrators give their own take on what has happened, the result is a gripping story that absorbed me from the start. Yes, it may be obvious what has happened, but the how and why are so compelling that the pages almost turned themselves.

As a journalist myself, I recognized Kate’s character and all the pressures she is under. It was refreshing to read a realistic portrayal of a journalist, rather than the more usual, one-dimensional ‘scum hack’ that is so favoured in novels. The weariness and frustration of the hardworking detective also struck true.

But of course the main character is Jean, the titular widow. What a fascinating study she is! She is almost impossible to get to know, having grown so used to hiding her feelings around a husband who dominates her, and her subtle changes are handled with great skill by Barton. Just how much was Glenn really in control, and how much did Jean know? These are the questions that drive the story along, and as the answers are slowly and painfully revealed there are some genuinely chilling moments. This is an absorbing read, and I’d definitely recommend it.

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