Book Review: And Then There’s Margaret by Carolyn Clarke

Marriage and midlife can be difficult. But when you add a controlling, manipulative and self-absorbed mother-in-law into the mix, things can get worse-much worse. Toxic, even.

When Allison Montgomery’s beloved father-in-law and long-time confidant passes away, her mother-in-law, Margaret, ‘temporarily’ moves in. From rearranging the furniture and taking over the kitchen, to undermining and embarrassing Allie at every turn, including funding her daughter’s escape, throwing a hissy fit at the mall, and publicly equating Allie’s glass of Chardonnay to full blown alcoholism, Margaret turns Allie’s life upside down causing her to bounce between a sincere desire to support her grieving mother-in-law and an intense urge to simply push her out of the nearest window.

Feeling annoyed, trapped and even a little childish, Allie struggles to avoid a complete meltdown with help from her fearless and audacious best friend, a plan for reinventing herself and enjoying a second act, and, yes, a few glasses of Chardonnay. Along the way, Allie discovers the reasons behind Margaret’s attitude toward her all these years. Does it help? Maybe…

*****

The premise for this novel intrigued me as I have always been fascinated by the relationships between family, especially when marriage occurs. You are thrown together with people who you may or may not have chosen to be around.

Allie has always had a good relationship with her father-in-law, George but, when he passes away, her mother-in-law, Margaret moves into her home for a while.

It’s clear from the outset that these two women should not be sharing a space. Haha. Allie behaves in a way that I feel is totally relatable and I cheered when she stood up for herself. However, Margaret is also going through a bad time in her life so it was hard to just dismiss her as difficult. There is more to Margaret’s behaviour than Allie realises.

I liked the character and relationship development between Allie and Margaret that occurs throughout the book, as they possibly begin to understand each other. What happens is something I will leave you to find out.

Hank, Samantha and Cameron are great (I especially loved the bond Cameron and Allie shared,) and Val was also brilliant. I feel like there could be a story with her as a central character? I feel her story isn’t done yet.

This book successfully explores the family dynamic and how it can be wonderful one moment and bat crazy the next. That is life.

It also explores themes around mid-life crisis and how it is never too late to change the things in your life that are no longer working – the things that no longer give you joy.

The style of writing is effortless and I was immediately pulled into Allie’s story. I loved the fact that she was writing to George. It allowed him to still be a part of the story.

This book examines the life of a 40 something woman perfectly. It’s honest, has a great humour running throughout and has a lot of heart.

I loved it.

P.S: Thank you to my mother-in-law Sara for being nothing like Margaret. I got very lucky indeed.

(Thank you to Hannah Hargrave and Netgalley for the advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.) 

 

 

About Carolyn Clarke: 

Carolyn Clarke is the founder and curator of HenLit Central, a blog focused on ‘life and lit’ for women over 40.

And Then There’s Margaret is her first novel.

She has been an ESL teacher for over sixteen years and has co-authored several articles and resources with Cambridge University Press, MacMillan Education and her award-winning blog ESL Made Easy.

She lives in Toronto, Canada with her partner, Tony, her two daughters and a bulldog, Sophie.

Say hello to Carolyn via Twitter

And Then There’s Margaret was released by Black Rose Writing. Click to buy on Amazon UK, Waterstones, Amazon US and Amazon CA.

 

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Laura
I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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