17 July 2022

Review: THE WOMAN IN THE LIBRARY, Sulari Gentill

  • This edition an e-book from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09R41JFYN
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ultimo Press (1 June 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 266 pages

Synopsis (Amazon

‘And then there is a scream. Ragged and terrified. A beat of silence even after it stops, until we all seem to realise that the Reading Room Rules no longer apply.’
Hannah Tigone, bestselling Australian crime author, is crafting a new novel that begins in the Boston Public Library (BPL): four strangers; Winifred, Cain, Marigold and Whit are sitting at the same table when a bloodcurdling scream breaks the silence. A woman has been murdered. They are all suspects, and, as it turns out, each character has their own secrets and motivations – and one of them is a murderer.
While crafting this new thriller, Hannah shares each chapter with her biggest fan and aspirational novelist, Leo. But Leo seems to know a lot about violence, motive, and how exactly to kill someone. Perhaps he is not all that he seems…
The Woman in the Library is an unexpectedly twisty literary adventure that examines the complicated nature of friendship – and shows that words can be the most treacherous weapons of all.

My Take

I have found this novel very difficult to review without revealing too much of the plot. I would rather leave it so the reader can travel on the same journey that I have.

So we have a cleverly constructed plot within a plot, a novel within a novel, a mystery within a mystery. I suspect that most readers, like me, will find this a challenging read.

So I have written my thoughts in a section below, rather than here, with an appropriate spoiler warning, and still trying not to reveal too much of the novel.

My rating: 4.5


About the Author
After setting out to study astrophysics, graduating in law and then abandoning her legal career to write books, SULARI GENTILL now grows French black truffles on her farm in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains of Australia.
Gentill's Rowland Sinclair mysteries have won and/or been shortlisted for the Davitt Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and her stand-alone metafiction thriller, After She Wrote Him won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Novel in 2018. Her tenth Sinclair novel, A Testament of Character, was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Best Crime Novel in 2021. --This text refers to the paperback edition. 

I've also read


Warning: Might contain spoilers 

Celebrated Australian author Hanna Tigone is in Sydney writing in her latest novel which she sets in the Boston Public Library. Winfred (Freddie) is an Australian writer who has won a Sinclair writer in residence scholarship to live and write in Boston and is living with other scholarship winners in an apartment house at Carrington Square. Among the others living there is another writer in residence named Leo Johnson. 

So we have a cleverly constructed plot within a plot, a novel within a novel, a mystery within a mystery. I suspect that most readers, like me, will find this a challenging read. The story that Freddie is writing is based on a group of people united by a scream. Freddie reveals her story to the others she has met at the BPL and they react enthusiastically, seemingly not realising she will be basing her story on them.

Hannah's novel also begins with the scream. As she completes her written segments she emails her novel off to a fan Leo, who, rather confusingly, is in Boston. Leo provides advice to Hannah about American customs and terminology. Leo talks about the need to give the novel a time frame, to say what colour/race the characters are and so on. He also keeps saying that he intends to come to Sydney to meet Hannah in person. The emails with Leo provide a third plot.

At the end of the novel the author has provided a Reading Group Guide, a set of questions readers might discuss. In the next section A CONVERSATION WITH THE AUTHOR Sulari Gentill reveals some uncanny parallels with the plots of the novel and what was happening in her own life.

I found the discussion between Freddie and the other characters about how she writes her story interesting: she likens the construction to a bus picking up passengers who then determine the direction the action takes. Whereas Cain plots his novel more conventionally, rather like a spider web. 

So after you've read the THE WOMAN IN THE LIBRARY come back and tell me how you reconciled  its construction.

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