The Prodigal Wife (by Marcia Willett)

I've been reading books by Marcia Willett for about twelve years now. While I enjoy all her novels, some of my favourites are the often emotive Chadwick trilogy: Looking Forward, Holding On, and Winning Through. I re-read them all a couple of years ago, and very much enjoyed them. I also wished that there could have been more about the delightful Chadwick family.

So I was delighted when I discovered that a fourth in the series had been written. 'The Prodigal Wife' takes place about ten years after the end of 'Winning Through'. Jolyon is no longer a hurting and confused teenager, but a young man on the brink of falling in love. He is fearful of commitment, and still bears deep scars from the pain his mother caused him in his childhood and teens, but he has established himself as a market gardener, living at the gatehouse of The Keep.

Others of the family are much the same, albeit older and somewhat matured. But this book is mainly about Maria, Jolyon's selfish mother who walked out on her husband and always favoured her younger son. She has suffered a recent bereavement when the book opens, and it has started to make her re-think her priorities and her values.

There are some new characters introduced too, who blend in very well with the old favourites. I expect the cast list would be confusingly large for anyone who had not read the previous Chadwick novels, as would the various sub-plots, sometimes making reference to the past. 'The Prodigal Wife' does stand alone, but in my view is much better read as a sequel to the three earlier novels.

I didn't find it quite as moving or engrossing as the earlier books, but it was nevertheless an enjoyable read, and a book which I am sure I will return to in future.

Certainly recommended to anyone who has read and liked the original Chadwick trilogy.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 17th July 2010

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