It’s probably unfair to compare Verity (2018) to classics of the gothic such as Rebecca and Jane Eyre, but the parallels are unmistakable. A young woman finds herself enthralled with an older man who harbors a terrible secret concerning his wife. Isolated at his home, the heroine must discover the secret and save him while he, well, broods.
Here, the protagonist is Lowen Ashleigh, a novelist who accepts a lucrative offer to complete the last two books of a successful series by Verity Crawford, who has been completely incapacitated by a car accident that follows close behind the deaths of her twin daughters. (As a side note, the names in this novel are ridiculous and distracting.) As part of her research Lowen travels to Verity’s home and sifts through her office, living at the isolated home and falling for Jeremy Crawford, Verity’s husband. She doesn’t find an outline for her novel, but she does find an unpublished autobiography by Verity which contains shocking secrets.
The book is a page-turner that I finished quickly, but it was ultimately unsatisfying and required too many suspensions of disbelief. Lowen spreads out her reading of Verity’s autobiography for reasons that don’t make a lot of sense (what does make sense is that Hoover needs the autobiography to unfold as the plot of the novel does). Towards the end of the novel, events unfold which only make sense if the Crawfords are surrounded by completely inept doctors and police.
There’s a nice theme about women writers and the power of their words. Lowen is a reclusive writer because she feels people are let down when they meet her: “And that’s why I stay at home and write. I think the idea of me is better than the reality of me.” It’s clever to pair Lowen’s insecurity with Verity’s incapacitation, which means we only know Verity through her autobiography. Overall, I wanted more of Lowen’s reflections on her own voice, and Verity’s, and less of the love triangle with the bland Jeremy.