Friday, December 6, 2019

Anna Ekberg - The Secret Woman

Comment: I got this book at my local library last time I was there. I checked goodreads and there isn't an English edition of this book and that is why I haven't included a blurb. The literal translation could be "The Secret Woman" and I think it's an appropriate title, unlike others I saw in languages I recognized.
This was one more of my impulsive pickings while browsing the library shelves but turned out to be engaging and easy to read.

This is the story of Louise, who works in a small cafe on the island of Christiansø (belonging to Denmark), living in peace and quietness with her boyfriend Joachim, a writer.
One day their lives are turned upside down when a man arrives and starts yelling, claiming Louise is actually named Helene and she is his wife, who has been missing for three years.
In fact, Louise hasn't many memories of her past and she has been in the distant island for that long but she won't believe it until DNA confirms it: she is indeed Helene and not Louise but she can't remember anything about her previous life, not even the fact she has two small children.
Following her decision to try to be a mother to those little kids, she goes back to her life as Helene but she can't help looking for clues on why she left in the first place. Her boyfriend Joachim also looks for evidence on who Louise had to be and what they both find in their own searches proves secrets can really be as deep the havoc they could cause...

The first thing I did when I started reading this novel whose action takes place in Denmark was to check google maps to see where the island actually is. How intriguing to discover it's such a small island and rather distant from Denmark, it does seem located geographically closer to Sweden or Poland. (What a fun thing, reading: it does allow people to learn a lot!)
The island seems to be quite isolated and I started to wonder how on Earth Louise/Helene's husband found her there! I don't remember if this was answered...

The book is centered on a search for truths. I think this being a thriller is a good description although here it feels as if they marketed it as romantic thriller and, in fact, there is a romantic subplot that motivates some of the main character's actions: they want to help the other somehow.
This is a very clever plot, there are many details about Helene's search for why she felt like running before and why she got to become amnesic and invent herself as Louise at the same time Joachim tries to follow the clues that made Helene have a backpack with things indicating she is Louise. The two apparently separate situations do meet at some point though the novel and the why is very surprising, if not totally original.

I think the authors (Anna Ekberg is a pseudonym) thought of a very intriguing set of events and reasons to make this plot work. While things happen some of these things make sense and made me feel a certain range of emotions towards Helene and Joachim in each of their investigations. However, plot choices apart, there were some actions the characters did to achieve a goal or get a clue or to make it possible for things to move forward that strike me as a bit too far fetched. I guess this has to happen in thrillers with psychological content/reasoning: the more things are out there, the more surprising and innovative the ideas have to be for the reader to feel impressed. Despite that, I think some situations were there, not exactly to be shock value but because there was no other way for the message to come through.
I suppose keeping things simple would be too boring...

When we finally learn everything, the sensation is really a wow moment but I think it's more related to the opinions we might have on the ways people behave and what they did to achieve what they wanted and not exactly the reasons behind those, which were not as dire nor as Machiavellian as I thought in a moment or two.
The end is left in the air but I'd say things end nicely and without second intentions or vibes as sometimes thriller author intend: to let the reader think if things end well or possibly bad. I liked the promise of goodness in the way this story ended.
Grade: 8/10

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