Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: The Mistress's Revenge by Tamar Cohen

The Mistress’s Revenge

By Tamar Cohen

Published by Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster

Release Date: June 7, 2011

271 pages


Is there a parallel universe somewhere populated entirely by those people we believe we know inside out--until they suddenly turn into other people entirely?

Ok, so we all know that Facebook has irrevocably changed our lives. It’s now easier than ever to stalk our exes online, hate on their girlfriends or fiancés, and spin a silken tale of a life we want others to think we have. In fact, I recently dusted off a fictional piece I wrote a couple of years ago about this very thing. Of course The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog hasn’t informed me of its status (and I’m too cowardly to inquire), but that’s another story…

Social media has firmly carved out a huge place for itself in our lives. How many people do you know whose marriages/relationships have ended because of an affair that started on FB or MySpace or Craigslist? Uh huh…  

Tamar Cohen has written a dark, scintillating novel of an affair gone marvelously wrong. And I say marvelously, because this is a story told from the slightly maladjusted viewpoint of Sally Islip, a woman who at first doesn’t SEEM to be crazy. Oh no, she seems more like your best friend who’s just a little pissed off that she’s being dumped after everything she’s invested into the relationship. Because really—which of us doesn’t go a little crazy when we’ve been rejected?  Especially, when we’ve been replaced like last week’s expired gallon of milk?

Sally decides she’s not going to go gently into that good night.

She’s going to get even.

Sally Islip and Clive Gooding are married. And not to each other. That hasn’t made a dent in their 5 year long affair. They’re planning on running away from their respective spouses and striking out on their own. That is, until Clive unceremoniously dumps Sally and claims that he is going to try to make his marriage work. To make matters worse, Sally learns that this has all been spurred by the pregnancy of Clive’s adult daughter; Clive wants to present the “perfect family” portrait, be that perfect grandfather, and renew his vows to his wife, Susan.

But Sally has been in a tailspin for a long time. She’s slowly stopped paying the bills, stopped trying to make a living as a freelance writer, stopped paying attention to her kids, and stopped existing in her own life.  And what did it matter anyway? She was going to live the high life with her wealthy lover and never worry about money or careers or child-rearing again.

Basically, Sally is up shit creek because she has no Plan B.

Which brings us to the crux of the story: as Sally logs into her FB account and starts checking her friend Susan’s (ß Read: Clive’s wife) status updates, and learns that Clive’s life is apparently better than ever, she loses what little sanity she has left. First, she entrenches herself more firmly into Clive’s life by meeting frequently with his wife. Then she decides to call him at all hours of the day and night. When all else fails, she tries to re-seduce him.

Sally’s therapist encourages her to work through these dark times by journaling. Which seems to be good advice, only instead of helping Sally working through her feelings, it succeeds in working her up into a frenzy of raging vengeance. And the astonishing array of pharmaceuticals she’s consuming isn’t helping. No one is safe from Sally’s plots and manipulations—but she’s underestimated how far Clive will go to disentangle himself from her, once and for all.

In the wrong hands, this first person narrative could have tumbled into a cesspool of pity parties and the run of the mill emotional disintegration. But Cohen cleverly navigates this novel with poise, dark humor, and an eye towards society’s blatant hypocrisies and absurd indulgences.


The compartmentalizing is something I never could manage to get right. You were, naturally, a black  belt in it. How many times did you make the journey straight from Premier Inn to marital bed without even stopping to pass go? I did admire that, I really did. It probably came from all those years trying to break into the music business, oiling your way into record company offices, turning yourself into whoever the bosses wanted you to be. What’s that they call it nowadays? A transferable skill. That’s what it is, being able to parcel up all the separate bits of your life into distinct sections and keep them from touching one another like a TV dinner. There’s a lot to be said for a talent like that.

About the Author: 

Tamar Cohen is a freelance journalist who lives in London with her partner and three teenage children. The Mistress's Revenge is her first novel.

You can find the author:

On Twitter: @MsTamarCohen

On Facebook HERE

Book Trailer, Inspiration for the Novel