Culture Street


The Widow by Fiona Barton

On January 26, 2016


By Sophia Whitfield

A husband accused. A wife standing stoically by his side. We have seen it often played out in the media. In Fiona Bartonís debut novel she examines the psyche of the wife of the accused. How much did she know, or allow herself to know?

Jean Taylorís husband is dead. Now he has gone can she finally reveal what, if anything, she knows? For Detective Bob Sparkes finding two-year-old Bella has become an obsession. He is sure Jean must know something but throughout the trial she had stood by her husband professing his innocence.

Glen and Jean Taylor were happily married. Glen had a good job at the bank and they got on well with their neighbours. Friends and family are shocked when Glen starts to appear on the front page of the papers, accused of a horrendous crime. Jean Taylorís life has gone from ordinary to out of control with the media permanently camped outside her home. She has become the accused by default.

Bartonís taut account gives narratives for detective Bob Sparkes, Kate, the reporter, who feigns empathy for the killer story, and Jeanís first person account.

The media is revealed as unrelenting. Jean struggles with the intrusion into her life but Dawn, the mother of Bella, becomes savvy at dealing with the media. She launches her ĎFind Bellaí campaign but she is not entirely likable despite sympathy from the public. She did, after all, leave her little girl alone for a substantial period of time.

As the trial continues details of Glenís life are revealed. A secret life Jean knew nothing about. Their lives are dragged through the mud. They can go nowhere without being recognised.

Did Jean ever really know her husband? Now he is dead can she tell her side of the story?

Bartonís novel is compulsive reading. She skillfully tells how each player copes with the investigation, and reveals the lengths each will go to, to hide and reveal the truth. Buy the book here.

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