Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly

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Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jo Heffer
Reviewed by Jo Heffer
Summary: Judith O'Reilly leaves all that she loves in her beloved London, moves 350 miles away to Northumberland and sets up home with her husband and young family. The only problem is that it's her husband's dream, not hers. She allows herself two and a half years to decide whether she will permanently settle there or return home. This witty and honest book chronicles all that happens during that time leaving the reader to puzzle over what her decision will be.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: July 2008
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0141033433

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Judith O'Reilly is leaving her beloved London to go and live in rural Northumberland with her husband and her small children. It's all her husband's idea as she would much rather be staying where she is. Wife in the North chronicles what happens over the next two and half years, that being the amount of time they have given themselves to decide whether they will actually settle there or return home.

The book is written in a diary style which makes it very easy to read. Judith O'Reilly uses her keen observation and wry wit to describe the many events she experiences, from the mundane to the bizarre. Much of her story is told in a humourous way although it does not disguise the underlying fact that, at least at first, she really does not want to be there. What I found almost inexplicable was that her husband, who so wanted to live there, was spending most of his time working in London whereas she, who wanted to be in London, was staying up North with her two sons and then with a small baby as well. I found myself wondering why she would stay. I'm not sure I would have been so accommodating.

Although the story is told in the first person, I did feel that the writer was keeping her readers at arm's length a bit, and I never felt I got to know her properly, though I often identified with her as a wife and a mother. Many of her children's antics that were described so well reminded me of my two daughters and my heart went out to her when she discovered the floors of their rented house had been painted a shade of bright pink. She does have a 'tell it like it is style' whether it's describing her aged mother's frailties or her son's difficulties in settling at school. I sensed that she needed to distance herself somewhat in order to cope with the upheaval of the move, an ill mother,three children under five and the turmoil of having builders in.

There were times that I did find myself losing patience with the writer though and early on it feels like she does not want things to work out. Also, I really wanted to shout at this seemingly modern independent woman when her car ran out of petrol for the fifth time and she was still blaming her husband for not having filled the tank. Was she ever going to learn?

I noticed quite early on that no one was being named in the book which I found quite strange and again somewhat distancing. People are all referred to by labels such as husband, four year old, patient mother, gay best boyfriend and so on. Although these witty labels gave an idea of what these people were like you never gained a sense of who they really were. I wanted witty and colourful descriptions of the locals that she came across but these always fell a bit short for me.

Although the book was very readable I wasn't sure that I was enjoying it until at least half way when I realised that I was. I did not find it the 'howling with laughter at every page' read that was promised on the front cover, but I did appreciate its humour and honesty. There were also some truly poignant moments when the writer did at last share some of her inner feelings and I was quite taken aback when one entry had me in tears – not of laughter but sympathy.

Judith O'Reilly leaves you guessing right up to the end as to whether she will choose to stay in Northumberland or return to London and gives no clues as to what she will decide. I'm not going to say of course but I was definitely rooting for the right decision.

Wife in the North may not grab you from the start but I think you should give it a chance, just like Judith did with Northumberland.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy Wife in the North, you may also want to read A Place In My Country: In Search Of A Rural Dream by Ian Walthew.

Buy Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly at Amazon.com.


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