The story follows the life of Jane Ronson, a devoted mother and wife who is caught up in a police investigation. Her husband, the Governor of New York state, was found dead after either falling or being pushed off the roof of their home.
Jane’s story is intricately woven in and out of the investigation, which seems to be centred on her as a murder suspect due to her having authored a book in which the protagonist murders her husband by pushing him off a roof.
The quiet domesticity of the Ronson’s family life is shattered chapter by chapter as we learn about Jane’s troubling past.
The novel elegantly depicts Jane’s life from birth detailing a strained relationship with her mother, a tragic rape that pummels her into a drawn-out depression, and a controversial writing career.
The beauty of this story is how well Van Tonder is able to depict the psychological state of her protagonist. Jane’s decisions and actions as an adult can be echoed downward throughout her life and childhood.
As a child, she was a bystander to her parent’s abusive marriage. As an adult, Jane endures a physically and emotionally abusive relationship which mimics that of her parents.
The story explores relevant social issues such as rape, domestic violence and patterns of societal violence, as well as crime. It also offers a critical view of US politics, political hypocrisy, and the impact this has on individual lives.
The novel, which is written from a heavily feminist perspective speaks to all of the ways in which misogynistic violence creates a culture of self-hate, and how it normalises violence towards women.
It also explores how domestic violence impacts the psychological wellbeing of children and how it influences the break down of family values.
Van Tonder’s excellent writing is deliciously irresistible, poetic and descriptive. She expertly manoeuvres between revealing too much or too little which keeps the mystery of the novel vibrantly alive.
This is a definite read for the new year!