Book Review: The New Girl by Harriet Walker

The New Girl

I saw this on NetGalley and it really appealed – although I did think it reminded me of the 2017 TV series ‘The Replacement’ starring Morven Christie and Vicky McClure – so I thought I would give it a go.

Here’s the blurb:

“Glamorous Margot Jones is the fashion editor at glossy women’s magazine Haute, and pregnant with her first child. Margot’s used to her carefully curated life being the object of other women’s envy – who wouldn’t want her successful career, loving husband, beautiful house and stylish wardrobe?

Maggie, a freelance journalist, certainly knows she doesn’t measure up. So when Margot gets in touch to suggest she apply for her maternity cover at Haute, Maggie seizes the chance at living a better life – even if it’s only temporary.

But the simultaneous arrival of Margot’s baby and a brutal end to her oldest friendship sends Margot into a spiral of suspicion and paranoia. Are Maggie’s motives as innocent as they seem? And what happens at the end of the year when Margot wants her old life back – especially if Maggie decides she doesn’t want to leave?”

The book starts with Margot pregnant and her best friend from school, Winnie,  who is also pregnant, having a stillborn son (I think readers need to know this – as this could undoubtedly be a trigger for some people).

Margot is trying to sort out her maternity cover at work – and decides to suggest an acquaintance who she’s met on a previous work trip – and Maggie ends up getting the job.

Whilst Margot is on maternity leave she starts social media stalking Maggie – and gets concerned that Maggie is doing things in a different way and if not better than she did, and won’t want to give up the job when Margot returns a year later.  Interestingly the TV series that I thought about when I read the blurb is referenced at this point – with Margot finding it too close to home to watch it!

Since her tragedy, Margot’s best friend Winnie has distanced herself from Margot – which Margot kind of understood initially, as her beautiful baby daughter Lila would be a constant reminder of Winnie’s son who died.  But there is clearly something that has happened in Margot and Winnie’s past that ties them together – and it involves a girl called Helen.  This is hinted at – and Margot even gets trolled by a social media user called @HelenKnows – but initially you don’t know if these are linked and what happened.

As well as professionally, Maggie starts to encroach on Margot’s home life – beginning dating her husband’s best friend.

So far, so suffocating!

The second phase of the book gives the back story on Margot, Winnie and Helen at school and you see everyone in a different light.  I found my allegiances switching chapter by chapter!

The third and final part of the book builds tension up and up.  There are some really short chapters that add to the pace (it actually made me laugh a bit as I, like many, am in the midst of homeschooling – and one of the tricks my 9 year old has been taught is to do short sentences when you’re trying to build the excitement!) but it builds and builds and twists and turns and is brilliant! You are almost holding your breath during one scene.  I don’t want to give too much away – but it was excellent.

Overall the book is very well written and structured and just a fantastic, escapist read.  I sometimes find ‘new Mum’ books a bit predictable, samey and without much depth – and have actually avoided them for a while as I felt they’d been ‘done’ (and maybe I’d moved on as my youngest was now 8) – but this felt like a ‘proper’ book, where the situation it was based on was just part of the storyline.  Having said that, it definitely captures the slightly manic stressed-ness of new motherhood, and the politics that can exist in female friendships at times.

This is described as cross between ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (it’s set in a fashion magazine) and ‘Gone Girl’ (it’s a psychological thriller) – but I think it stands more than sufficiently on its own merit!

It’s already out on Kindle – and a total bargain at £2.99 – and out in hardback in a early July 2020.

Thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for my advance review copy.

 

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