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Neither the elegant middle-class Matilda nor the downtrodden Susan are precisely what they appear to be: when they meet in a prison cell, both are notorious husband killers. Matilda's appeal is imminent. She claims severe provocation in the shape of endless beatings from the husband she stabbed while Susan hardly bothered to defend herself in court. Most of Two Women is a flashback--a powerful venue for portraying domestic violence and criminal manners. Susan's murder of Barry resulted from years of brutality and sexual abuse by him and his partner in low-level gangland violence, her father Joey. "Joey would set people up and Barry execute the acts of violence and robbery, leaving Joe with the wedge and the kudos of being number one bailiff to the criminal community, while at the same time earning off the people stupid enough not to have him as their protection".
Martina Cole is darkly funny about Christmases and weddings ruined by alcoholic mayhem; she is also good on the ways in which women support each other and let each other down - Susan gets little help from her mother or her grandmother and yet finds a best friend in the most unlikely of places. Martina Cole brings to her novels all the emotional force of her best television scripts. This is a vivid picture of the working-class criminal world in which everyone is supposed to live by a code and where that code is broken by any person violent enough to get away with it. - Roz Kaveney
Two Women (fiction)
Martina Cole (Author)
customer reviews (Yes)
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Reviews from Amazon:
A fantastic book with a great twist in plot towards the end. However, just one criticism - the title "Two Women" is really misleading as is the synopsis which states "when Sue Dalston is celled up with murderess Matilda Enderby their fates become inextricably linked".
Actually, their fates do not become inextricably linked. The protagonist, Sue Dalston, doesn't meet Matilda Enderby until two thirds of the way through the book, and even then the only way their lives interlink is that they briefly share a prison cell and also share the same barrister for a while - hardly "inextricably" linked.
Sue Dalston is a fantastic characterisation - I don't doubt there are plenty of real life Sue Dalston's out there. Martina writes about her with such clarity and realism that I really feel she must personally know a Sue Dalston. You get drawn into Sue's life and realise how she is trapped. You really end up understanding why she behaves as she does.
One more slight criticism of this otherwise five star read is that all through the book Sue's mother is a total scumbag, yet towards the end of the book she miraculously discovers maternal feelings. It's as though Martina wants to tie up all the loose ends nicely and provide a nice happy ending.
The family party towards the end of the book - with all the family members getting along and enjoying themselves together just seems unreal and spoils it a bit. Memo to Martina : your books are based on realism, real life doesn't have happy endings all the time.
The book is definitely a page turner and Martina knows how to work the reader. A gripping read to the end and you won't be disappointed by the twist in the tale as you really feel that it could happen. Very cleverly written.
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