The Widow’s Tale by Mick Jackson is his third novel, published this month. I didn’t know of him and hadn’t read anything by him before, but when I saw this book on offer through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers’ Programme I thought it looked interesting. His earlier novels are The Underground Man, shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1997 and Five Boys, published in 2001.
The Widow’s Tale is a sad tale – she is certainly not a Merry Widow, but then again she is not the Widow of Windsor (Queen Victoria) even though she does leave her house in London and live in seclusion in Norfolk.
Like Rebecca she doesn’t have a name and written in the first person singular the narrative is all from her perspective and rather rambling as befits a woman in her sixties on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was a bit put off at the beginning when she comes out with the phrase, so often used by my mother-in-law: “By the time you get to my age …”. But there the similarity ended.
Her husband has died, she’s taken it badly, and goes to live in a rented cottage on the bleak Norfolk coast, shunning other people. She drinks to forget herself, sits in pubs alone, doing the crossword and reading a book to pass the time. She drives out to places she once knew, goes for solitary walks, gets stuck in the saltmarshes, and is definitely quirky and obsessional.
But there is something in her past life that is haunting her, an episode that John, her husband didn’t know anything about and that has coloured her life ever since. I think it it was this rather than losing John that caused her such distress. I was wondering how this book would end and in a way it is inevitable and I thought it rather disappointing.
I don’t often think this about a book – it was OK. The writing is fluent and it’s a quick read. It’s episodic rather than linear as she recollects events and thoughts from the past and I would have said it’s really good but for the fact that I couldn’t really believe the narrator is a woman. But it has made me want to read more by Mick Jackson and I see from his website that as well as his three novels he’s also written two book of short stories, Ten Sorry Tales and Bears of England, both of which look interesting.