Reviewing The Coach House by Florence Osmund is difficult without giving away any spoilers. The book offers many parallel story lines, and it is hard to determine at what point a reviewer should stop revealing what comes next. The first out of two books in a series, I would definitely not call this ‘chick-lit’ as some reviewers have.
The story of The Coach House starts in the late 1940s in a post War America busy with reconstruction. Marie Costa has had a tough deal in life. Born to a single mother, she is orphaned at 16, but goes on to college thanks to a secret benefactor. After a degree in a design from a New York School, she is back in her native Chicago working for Marshall Fields. Richard Marchetti is a salesman who falls in love with Marie at first sight. After a whirlwind romance, both get married and move into a new house.
Marie is happy for a while, working hard at her job, going up the corporate ladder, coming home to a loving husband. Gradually, she starts noticing his odd behavior. Lying comes too easily to Richard, and it becomes evident that he is involved in some shady deals. Marie makes a difficult decision to walk away from a doomed relationship. Her elaborate escape plans go awry and she has to flee for her life. Eventually, she lands up in a small town in the interior, and begins a new life.
Will Marie be able to rebuild her life? Does her husband catch up with her? These are questions that will gradually be answered, but these are not the end of the story.
Marie is described as ‘olive skinned’. Frankly, I have never really understood what this means. Does this mean black, or beige or green? Based on an odd comment from a shopper, Marie begins to suspect that she may be multi racial, but is not sure what it really means to her. Marie is very young at 22 when she flees her marriage. We realize that she has strength of character, and is also very smart. The plot is fast paced, and we come across many surprises. I am not sure of the significance of Richard’s family, or if they added in any way to the plot. Another thing that struck me was an abrupt segue – Marie is suspicious and worried about Richard’s lying, and we read about that for a few pages. Then suddenly the reader finds that Marie knows what he is up to.
While reading the book, it is difficult to understand which issue is most important to the author. Is this the story of a lonely girl who makes it on her own, or the story of an abused wife who asserts her independence, or the story of how she goes about finding a missing parent? I guess the point is made toward the end, and the second book in the series, ‘Daughters’, will pick up at that point.
Overall, I fully recommend The Coach House. It is a commendable piece of work for sure.