editor's choice



When I first heard the premise for Amanda Craig’s new novel, The Golden Rule, I was intrigued. Two women meet on a train, talk and agree to kill each other’s husbands. It’s Strangers on the Train revisited surely? As a huge Hitchcock and Highsmith fan that’s wonderful. It’s even more so to discover the novel is so much more than that.

Set in London and Cornwall, The Golden Rule is multi-layered, exploring subjects as diverse as abuse, diversity, economic disparity, class, Brexit, folklore, but with a deft hand. Craig’s prose is beautifully controlled, the detail of Hannah’s life, in particular, and the abuse she suffers at her aristocratic husband’s hands, revealed to us in quiet moments. Kept in poverty by Jake, the manipulative husband who’s left her for glamorous Eve, Hannah struggles to feed her child, her life far from what she expected when she escaped Cornwall for London. A chance encounter with wealthy, bitter Jinni on a train back to visit Hannah’s dying mother, changes everything for her. As the women exchange stories, it’s obvious that while their lifestyles cannot be further apart, their experiences – of marriage, of abusive men – are very similar. By the end of the journey, they have exchanged details and seemingly made a pact with the devil.

The Cornwall that Hannah finds herself back home in is divided – literally from the rest of the country by the Tamar, but also by culture, language, superstitions and wealth. Locals, like Hannah, who grew up in places like St Piran, which ‘people drove through’ to get to beautiful towns like Fowey or Fol, are forced to make ends meet, cleaning the second homes of the very rich, like Jinni. Stan, who Hannah encounters after a failed attempt to fulfil her end of the bargain, is similarly stuck in this role, caretaking a crumbling Cornish mansion. It’s here the story takes on a different turn, with echoes of the fable Beauty and the Beast.

The Golden Rule is a well-penned book, tightly written, smartly plotted, with a host of characters who resonate. On one level, it is a highly entertaining book, paying more than a nod to a classic novel and film; on another, it’s far deeper, the themes played out against the backdrop of Brexit Britain, a nation divided in every sense of the word. However you choose to read it though, it is extraordinarily good.


Amanda Craig | The Golden Rule | Little, Brown | hardback | £16.99 | 2 July 2020 |

please support independent bookshops and local libraries


Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Susan de Soissons, Director, Author & Media Relations, Little, Brown, for sending us a review copy. And for the delicious Cornish fudge. Who doesn’t like fudge? All opinions are our own. All rights reserved.

See also:Chris Whitaker’s small-town America’; ‘Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; Carver’s Nothing Important Happened Today’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Also of interest: Night Mail (1936), changing the face of British film; A Colour Box by Len Lye (1935); Hitchcock (2012); The Splendour of George Stevens’ Giant (1956). Hitchcock (2012).

This review is copyright © 2020 by The Literary Shed. All rights are reserved. All opinions expressed are our own. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please contact us for permission and provide the necessary credit. Thank you so much. We welcome your feedback.




Tags : , , , , , , ,