TW: Domestic Violence and Abuse
For many of us throughout lockdown, COVID-19 was the most dangerous thing on our minds. But for many women across the UK, a bigger threat lurked inside their own home: their husbands.
Amid the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, housewife Sally is 23 years deep into an abusive marriage with her childhood sweetheart Jim. On the outside, they look like the picture-perfect couple, but unbeknown to most people in her life, Jim has been physically, emotionally and mentally abusing her. And Sally was not alone – 67% of victims told Women’s Aid that the abuse they were suffering at the hands of their husbands escalated during the lockdown.
The Best Way to Bury Your Husband follows Sally’s journey from the moment she realises Jim is likely to kill her She decides to take matters into her own hands… by killing him. In her antics of covering up the impulsive murder, she discovers and recruits the help of three other local women – Samira, Ruth and Janey – who are all in similar situations.
While the four women are all victims of domestic abuse in their own right, the novel doesn’t let this define them. In fact, despite the circumstances of their meeting, their camaraderie and companionship shines throughout. In the grand scheme of their far-fetched plan, the wives’ victimised identities are brief and fleeting, allowing for them to grow as individual selves over the course of the novel. Working together, the women hope to successfully free themselves – financially, physically, and mentally – from their abusive marriages and cover up their husbands’ deaths. The novel is full of tender moments of self-reflection and grief, interwoven with dark humour to lighten the mood. From persistent family calls to nosy neighbours, many hurdles and obstacles lie between them and their freedom.
The novel initially follows a multiple-POV narration, allowing for a wide range of personalities to shine. Protagonist Sally is fierce, unapologetic, and sympathetic to her fellow ‘murder club’ members. In the face of grief and mourning, Sally finds the simple joys in life by creating a ‘Be Happy List’ to complete. It serves as a gentle reminder to the reader that despite their impulsive acts of violence, these women are victims too. Each wife comes from a different background, thus offering their own unique perspective on life in the UK. For example, Samira is a Muslim woman who killed her husband Yafir to save her eldest daughter being forced into an arranged marriage. Casale raises brilliant awareness for this issue while remaining respectful to all different cultures and experiences.
Subtly interweaving both heartfelt and darkly humorous moments to take off the edge, the fundamental message behind The Best Way to Bury Your Husband is to raise awareness for those in need, and to not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. All in all, the novel reads as a message for women everywhere, including those suffering, that they are not alone.
Issues like self-isolating and social distancing are, for many of us, a distant memory. By introducing a backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the novel remains realistic and harrowing, despite the far-fetched, borderline farcical, plan to cover up four deaths. The suburban town setting, still impacted with the COVID-19 pandemic, calls to a past which still lingers in our present. As mentioned in her author’s note, Casale’s choice of a COVID-19 lockdown was very intentional. Domestic violence charity Refuge saw a 700% increase in visits to their websites and a 65% increase in calls to their helplines during this time.
With four dead husbands and a far-fetched plan to cover them up, The Best Way to Bury Your Husband is a fictional novel riddled with dark comedy and heartfelt moments. Thank you Penguin for sending this book for review consideration.
The Best Way to Bury Your Husband is due to be published 14 March 2024.