This new psychological drama from Wilson is an amazing tour-de-force. It was akin to watching a play in a fringe theatre with a small cast on an even smaller stage. From the very beginning of ‘The Wrong Girl’, Wilson lays in, pulling no punches.
This is very much a tale about parenthood, and the loss of parenthood either through adoption or the disappearance of a child. It is also about knowing ones identity and being comfortable in our own skin. While Janice comes to terms with her instant family, and despite being tied by blood, these people are strangers to one another. Janice feels an outsider and her loss of motherhood, thanks to Wilson’s powerful prose, resonated so much it felt palpable to me.
Running alongside this is the theme of young girls who have disappeared. Phoebe Piper vanished several years ago and Molly, who bears a striking resemblance, feels displaced within her family and is convinced she is Phoebe. Despite being two generations apart, Janice and Molly mirror one another across the years as they try to find their rightful place within the family dynamic. This is a recurring theme throughout Wilson’s novel, but in a way, by the end, there is some form of reconciliation amongst this fractured family.
As with many of Wilson’s previous psychological novels, the past very much impacts on the present and the author weaves both seamlessly to reveal a psychedelic tapestry of dysfunctional families, hedonism and grubby secrets.
Most of Wilson’s ‘play’ is acted out in the kitchen of the creaking Norfolk home where Janice grew up, but the interaction of the cast and the complicated dynamics between newly reunited mother, daughter and grand-daughter are sublime and every word oozes heartfelt regret and anger. Despite initial grievances, over time, a fragile alliance is built between Janice and Suzie.
For me the mark of a great book is when I reach the conclusion of a book, I want to stay in the company of the people I have got to know over 300 pages. This is how I felt about ‘The Wrong Girl’. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to continue with Janice, Suzie and Molly and what the future holds for all of them. Even now, over a week since finishing it, all three are still wandering around my imagination, such was the impression they made upon me.
I cannot recommend ‘The Wrong Girl’ highly enough. It had everything that makes for gripping drama. Solid characterisation, emotional depth, a claustrophobic feeling of impending maleficence played out upon the flat Norfolk landscape and a cracking good mystery at its dark heart. With ‘The Wrong Girl’ Wilson is a seriously strong contender for the Barbara Vine crown. So far, this is my best book of 2015 by a mile. I absolutely loved it.