Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Wedding Night by Harriet Walker. My thanks to publisher Hodder & Stoughton for the advance copy for review. The book was recently released in paperback – here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
What do you do when the wedding of your dreams turns into a nightmare?
When Lizzie calls off her wedding in the south of France only a week before the big day, not even her closest friends know why. But since the chateau is already paid for, they figure it’s the perfect place to take Lizzie’s her mind off her suddenly single state.
But when the group arrives, the wedding is waiting for them – food, flowers, and all.
The next day, Lizzie wakes to find her friends have drunkenly revelled in the wedding-that-wasn’t – but not all their antics were benign. Someone is set on tormenting Lizzie, and she can’t think who.
The more the friends try to piece together exactly what happened that night, the more secrets start to come out . . .
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked up this and added it to my TBR pile. This was received unexpectedly from the publisher and it wasn’t a book really on my radar, for no reason other than I have dozens upon dozens of other books sitting around the house that were (are still) demanding my attention, so I hadn’t been particularly looking for something new. But I had the book, and I had a reading gap so I thought something a little different might do me some good. Now if you’ve read my weekly posts of late, you’ll know I have been struggling with reading again of late and what should take me a few hours to read is generally taking five or six evenings to complete. Not so with The Wedding Night. Picked the book up at 16:30, finished it by 21:30 and that was with a stop to make and eat dinner! Given that the prior weekend it had taken be over two hours to read a 100 page ‘Quick Reads’ titles because of my poor focus, it’s safe to say this book hit right spot for me at just the right time.
I’m not quite sure where I’d pitch this book if asked. Not quite your normal psychological thriller exactly. There are some of the key tropes you may expect – the secrecy, the duplicity and those elements of story which suggest there is far more going on than we can see on the surface – but I suppose it sits more around a relationship drama, a story of a close knit group of friends who are holidaying in less than normal circumstances and find themselves forced to examine their bond, their marriage (or lack there of) and other various relationships as they spend a rather fraught week in the very villa that should have been the venue for Lizzie and Dean’s wedding. Add in few strange and eerie happenings and a whole lot emotion driven by all of the partnerings which are in such diverse stages of the whole relationship cycle, and it’s the kind of holiday I’d be avoiding like the plague.
I mean, I get the decision to still go on the holiday – everyone has paid for flights accommodation etc and even post pandemic, getting refunds on that kind of stuff really isn’t that straightforward. But take the ex-bride to be too? Because nothing is going to cheer up the recently uncoupled like a nice vacay to their intended honeymoon suite with a trio of loved up couples, is it? 🤨😳 Expecting a car crash? Yeah. It is. Some many little subtle, and not so subtle reminders of ‘this is what you could have won’ and it’s no wonder that Lizzie is on edge, angry and living on the escapism of sleeping pills to forget what isn’t happening. But it’s also about what is happening, because the more we learn about the four friends, Lizzie, Charlie, Effie and Anna, and the longer we spend in the villa, the clearer it is that something is not quite right.
The story is told from the points of view of Effie, Anna and LIzzie, varying chapters told from their own points of view with Anna and Effie doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of driving the story in the current day but Lizzie’s testimony proving crucial in getting to the crux of what is happening and has happened to understand why she called off her wedding. The more we learn, the more obvious the reason becomes however there is still a twist and one that might not be quite so obvious as what we are told is just enough to distort the picture and leave enough ripples of doubt until right at the crucial time.
It was interesting to hear from the three women’s points of view. Met at Uni, along with Charlie, and close friends ever since, you do get a real sense of that bond, but also of how it may have been twisted and stretched a little in more recent times. The women are still there for each other and that bond will be instantly recognisable to many a reader. Harriet Walker has captured that bond perfectly, as well as the flaws and nuances of their personalities. The paranoia, the doubts and the emotions that inform their actions. They wouldn’t necessarily be the kinds of people I’d gravitate toward in the real world, but watching their stories develop was fascinating and as a study in relationships and trust, this was a really interesting read.
There is another angle to the book, one all too relatable to modern life and one which is somewhat abhorrent to read, but to say too much about that might give away the central theme of the book. I’d have liked to see this explored a little more perhaps. It might have given the book more of that psychological thriller edginess that didn’t quite develop. The book still held my attention though and there was something, a kind of sense of brewing trouble that kept me turning the pages at speed right to the end. I really enjoyed it and would definitely look to more books by the author in future.
About the Author
Harriet Walker is the fashion editor of The Times. She read English at Trinity College, Cambridge and has been a broadsheet journalist for more than a decade. She lives in South London with her husband and children.