‘The Forgotten Woman’ by Angela Marsons is the story of two women and their sometimes painful struggle against an alcohol addiction. From two very different worlds, a former prostitute and a defence solicitor, their friendship shouldn’t work and yet they are to find out that behind the gloss and breeding, the leather jackets and the scars, they have more in common than just the desire to forget their pasts in the bottom of a bottle.
Kit Mason has lived a very difficult and traumatic life. Abused by her mother’s partner and forgotten by her sisters, she fled to London, falling into the world of an abusive pimp. She barely escaped with her life and has made a new start in Birmingham, where she is encouraged to attend the local AA Meeting. Her life has been filled with rejection, her drinking just another symptom of a deep rooted pain.
Frances Thornton appears to have it all. Money, breeding and a top career. Her drinking is seen as a sign of her burn out, her perfect trial record pushing her a touch too far as she tries to maintain it. But the truth is a darker, a secret which no one other than her family knows about, one which has slowly destroyed her life ever since she was a teenager.
The two meet at AA, and there is an immediate tension between them as their differences are hard to ignore. And yet as their friendship grows, they become to rely upon each other for guidance and support as they try to find a way to beat their addiction and leave their past behind them. But life is never that simple is it?
Marsons has created a very interesting dynamic between the two characters. They wear a mask, a façade, the public persona designed to keep people away. Yet these masks slowly slip as they begin to open up to each other, and Marsons shows us the truth, and the beauty, of the person within. They each possess a characteristic that the other lacks, be it fire and strength, or subtlety and diplomacy. You get a real sense of the growth of their friendship, the way in which they come to rely on each other and the way in which they become a surrogate for the alcohol on which they depend. Their journey is moving, and sometimes harrowing, and both have a lot of emotional growth to achieve before they can really move on.
The pace of this story is more measured than fans of Marsons’ Kim Stone series will be used to, with just the occasionally tense scene, notably when Kit is faced with the threat from her pimp. More often it is slower and reflective, indicative of the mood of the piece. While Kit’s past is violent, Fran’s is no less shocking and as the truth of it is revealed, you are left feeling as sympathetic towards her as you are to the abuse Kit suffered. It is hard not to like, or to feel for, the two characters, no matter how prickly or stand-offish they may appear at first. Marsons’ beautiful writing builds them up in such a way that the optimism of the closing chapters seems the only fitting way to end the story. There is no clear resolution, it is not all wrapped up with a perfect HEA ending. But there is a sense of hope. A feeling that both women have the chance to become more than the legacy of their pasts would dictate.
A very moving 4 stars.
My thanks to Net Galley and publishers Bookouture for the copy of ‘The Forgotten Woman’ by Angela Marsons in exchange for my review.
The Forgotten Woman is available to purchase here: