Book review: Saving Grace by Jane Green

Is it possible to have the perfect life?

By Pam Norfolk
Monday, 1st June 2015, 10:00 am
Saving Grace by Jane Green
Saving Grace by Jane Green

To outsiders, Grace Chapman’s life is enviable… she’s beautiful, a top class chef, mother of a loving daughter, married to a bestselling author and lives in a stunning farmhouse on the Hudson River in New York State.

But looks can be deceptive and when her husband takes on new, young assistant, Grace’s ‘perfect’ world starts to fall apart with devastating consequences.

With a string of compelling novels under her belt, including Tempting Fate and The Accidental Husband, Jane Green has built a reputation as a clever, perceptive writer and her gripping new family drama delves into deeper, darker waters.

Saving Grace, a slow-burning, psychological page-turner, places a compelling focus on a marriage… a marriage which has stumbled along for 25 years, blighted by selfishness, bullying and unspoken secrets from the past, a marriage that now faces a cruel betrayal. Will the tightly stretched bonds finally be broken?

Grace and Ted Chapman are widely regarded as the perfect literary power couple. When they first met, it was love at first sight for Ted while English-born Grace, secretly scarred by a desperately unhappy childhood, felt as if she had fallen into the kind of life that only happened to other people.

But what no one sees is the real Ted, uncontrollably angry and ruled by wild mood swings, one minute a dazzling charmer and the next a terrifying bully who blames Grace for everything that goes wrong.

Grace used to fight back but now she withdraws into a self-constructed well of pain and resentment and invests all her energies in her cookery work at a charity home for families escaping abuse and addiction.

Now Ted’s long-serving assistant has left and to the rescue comes Beth, a cool and competent Mrs Doubtfire figure who can handle Ted and has the calm efficiency to weather the storms that threaten to engulf the Chapman household.

Beth quickly makes herself indispensable to Ted while Grace begins to feel sidelined in her home, and her marriage, by this ambitious but unsettling younger woman. Is Grace just paranoid, as her husband tells her, or is there more to Beth than there first appears?

The undoubted star of this emotion-packed story is Grace, a seductively warm and appealing character, whose insecurities and vulnerabilities feed the narrative tension and make her mental turmoil so palpably real.

Green paints an intriguing portrait of a woman trapped within her own suspicions, slowly witnessing, as if from outside, her fragile, tightrope existence spiralling dangerously out of control.

Grace’s ‘saving grace’ is her love of cookery and to reinforce its central role in her life, Green sprinkles her story with some mouth-watering recipes.

Poignant and absorbing, Saving Grace is a multi-faceted and passionate tale which will grip until the last page has turned…

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)