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Mrs Kimble is the first novel of Jennifer Haigh, which won the Pen/Hemingway Award. It is published by Harper Collins and retails at £6.99, as usual though you can get it for around £2 at the usual places.
Across twenty five years or so, this book introduces you to and weaves a story of three women who married a man named Ken Kimble. As you move through the book you are told 3 different stories, of each Mrs Kimble.
Ken Kimble posesses some sort of addictive charm and manages to seduce women easily. Beginning with his first wife, Birdie, Ken at the time being a clergy man, you hear breifly of their meeting and consequent marriage and of their two children. You are told in debth however of her desperate struggle to survive in the months following his desertion and her escape which is drink.
Following an affair with a pupil, Ken then meets his second wife, Joan, a lonely heiress recovering from cancer. She is soon smitten and Ken begins to take over her life also. Lastly, Dinah, a beautiful but damaged woman half his age, who used to baby sit Birdie's children when she was a teenager.
As the book unfolds you begin to learn about all sides of Ken, who is an obsessive, gready and generally unlikeable man, yet seems to be able to create some sort of attraction with these women very easily, adapting as it seems to their desires, at least in the beginning of each relationship.
A constant through each of these stories is Charlie, Ken's son with Birdie. You learn about his struggle to help his mother, look after his sister and consequently find happiness. Though he spent very little of his with Ken, his impression has been left and the damage seems to be irrepairable.
What becomes clear is that each Mrs Kimble has been taken in by Ken, and convinced themselves that Ken is exactly what they are looking for, becoming blind to the painfully obvious.
I have enjoyed this book very much, the charcters are very memorable and are brought to life through excellent imagery and attention to detail. Dealing with love, loss, betrayal, deceit, lust, collapse, the book is very moving. A great read.
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