Book Reviews

Book Review: The Woman in the Library

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By Sulari Gentill

Published June 2022

292 Pages

I’ll admit that when I picked up this book, I didn’t have much of an inkling of what the plot consisted of.  Something about an author writing about the people around her in the Boston Public Library.  Honestly, I thought it sounded a little odd and wondered how an entire novel could be spun out of that.  Fortunately, that was only the set up and this novel offered so much more than my truncated expectation.

There’s actually two stories going on at the same time.  In the first chapter, Freddie is having a hard time putting words to paper and instead is typing her impressions of the three people sitting near her (Freud Girl, Heroic Chin, and Handsome Man, who we come to know as Marigold, Whit, and Cain).  When a woman’s scream breaks the silence, the group adjourns to a coffee room and speculate on the cause of the commotion.  There’s the premise I was expecting but as soon as those scenes ended, I was thrown into confusion (nothing new there) when I found myself reading an email from Leo, an apparent fan and possibly a friend of the recipient, Hannah, an Australian author.   

The second story line becomes apparent when, after Leo offers an American point of view for the story and makes a few suggestions, some of those suggestions are picked up and worked into the next chapter.  At about that point, I had a lightbulb moment and realized that Leo was some sort of a critique partner and, while I don’t want to give any spoilers, possibly a greater threat than any of Freddie’s new friends.

“The Woman in the Library” interpreted by Wombo Dream

This turned out to be a riveting book and I’d be hard pressed to say which story I was more into.  I think probably the Leo/Hannah storyline held more tension because Leo went from helpful, to overly helpful, to creepy, to…you get the idea.  Whereas in the Freddie storyline, despite giving plausible motives for all three principal characters to have been the murderer, the emphasis on the character with the most plausible background to commit murder was pretty heavy handed so obviously, to my thinking, a red herring.

Regardless of which story holds your interest more, the writing is masterful, with small, seemingly irrelevant details peppered in that become so important later on.  My only complaint is that the ending left me hanging a little bit.  I swiped the last page feeling satisfied that both storylines were wrapped up, but still feeling like I might have been missing something.  All because of Leo.

Still, I plan to read more by this author, just as soon as I manage to whittle down my TBR pile.

4/5 stars – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

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