Saturday 24 May 2014

You Should Have Known

Grace Sachs is a therapist with a thriving New York practice.  Her husband is a paediatric oncologist and her gifted young son is at private school.  Grace is about to publish her first book You Should Have Known based on her theory that women should be able to detect the signs that a man is a womaniser or a debtor or a misogynist early on in the relationship and act accordingly.

The novel opens with Grace's author photo shoot for Vogue magazine.  She is anxious to distance her book from what she considers to be downmarket self-help guides such as The Rules or Relationships for Dummies.  Indeed, Grace is anxious to distance herself from a lot of things, she has let old friendships go and has a fractious relationship with her father and stepmother.  She considers herself and her husband to be conscientious people who work hard for the good of others and are possessed of unshowy good taste.  Grace's wardrobe consists of parchment coloured cashmere sweaters and linen and wool skirts.

Of course, calling a book which captures the zeitgeist You Should Have Known is asking for trouble.  When the mother of a child at her son's school is murdered and her husband goes missing Grace realises she may have missed the cues in her own relationship.  Jean Hanff Korelitz writes particularly well on relationship therapy and queen bee mothers at the school gates (far better than Gill Hornby's The Hive, I thought).  Whether this novel could be called a thriller I'm not sure, but I liked the gradually unfolding revelations and there is some delicious detail.  I loved the part when Grace discovers that the Hermes Birkin bag her husband bought for her is a fake (the bastard!) 

There is an interesting interview with Jean Hanff Korelitz here.  She is a relative of Helene Hanff, writer of 84 Charing Cross Road.  I would also recommend her previous novel Admission, one of my absolute favourites.