Meetup: The Mistress’s Revenge by Tamar Cohen

Our mini-meetup for The Mistress’s Revenge took place at Panera Bread this past Sunday afternoon.  Bianca, Holly, Angela, and I found a nice little spot and dived into the discussion.  And trust me, there was a lot to discuss.  The novel centers around Sally and Clive who have recently ended a five year affair.  Clive is married and Sally has been in a long-term relationship with the same man – both have children.  Clive ends the affair abruptly which sends Sally spiraling into utter madness.

Cohen’s novel is written from a unique perspective – the journal of Sally.  You are along for the journey with our crazy (very seriously crazy) ‘heroine’ as she stalks Clive and his family, deludes herself into believing so many pathetic things, completely abandons her children, and plots her final revenge.  You know she’s crazy which makes her a somewhat unreliable narrator – you never know how truthful she’s being – what details she’s leaving out of her stories – it can make you feel a bit mad yourself.  Or entirely sane!

Our discussion flowed easily – we talked of pity for Sally, for Clive, but mostly for their respective families; we asked whether the genders could be switched – could a man have played Sally’s role?  The twist ending that no one saw coming was perhaps the highlight of the novel for most.  Is Sally vindicated in her revenge – are we satisfied with the outcome?  How would Hollywood portray the story?  Who is to blame?

The novel is by no means high literature.  Revenge is Cohen’s first fiction novel – she’s a journalist, but we all said we’d love to read anything else she writes which is always a great compliment.  And despite the fact that we sometimes found the pacing a bit off, the characters hardly likeable, the cheating utterly despicable – we still LOVED talking about those things.  This novel gets an A+ in the book club discussion wars – so much so that we’ve decided to extend an invitation to the rest of the group to read the novel and join us for another discussion.  That’s a first for the Litwits!

Here’s what some of the other ladies had to say:

Holly says:  Tamar Cohen writes with a knowledge of this type of obsession that is almost scary. While I felt for Sally and at times Clive, it just goes to show that infidelity does not always end without consequences. Quick read and wanted to know more. When I first started this book I noticed that there were no chapters. This book is written as one long journal, with pauses between entries – there are no dates, so the reader really has no idea when the entries are written. The journal is actually more like a letter from Sally to Clive; however, Clive doesn’t know it. The pacing is slower than I would have liked, but the hook and Sally’s witty, insane observations kept me reading. The ending though understated and insidious, as was the suspense, proved interesting with a smart twist at the end that made the reading worth-while.

Allie says:  I can’t think of any scenario in which a person is supposed to feel sorry for a mistress. I don’t know if that was the intent of the book. I hope not. Reading it felt like watching a car accident. You look but you know you shouldn’t. I kept waiting for the “big moment” to happen as far as her revenge but how it ended felt like something that’s been done before in movies and TV. This mistress had no right to seek revenge. She was just as wrong as the man. Actually, she was worse because she showed no regard for her children after the affair ended.

Bianca says:  Reading Revenge was like sitting next to the main character on an insane roller coaster. You see what she sees, you know what’s going to happen and you hear her screaming the whole way. You also want to scream at her. Repeatedly. Yes, cheating is despicable. Yes, you hate her. Yes, you hate him too. But the writing of this novel drags you kicking and screaming into the mind of a completely insane woman and forces you to experience the dark, twisty tunnels of her mind. You want so badly for her to snap out of it, even though her character is so unlovable. The writer forces you to feel so much, both for the various characters (except Clive. He remains a jerk for everyone.) and your own emotions, which come out pretty intensely. The kicker is the twist ending. Completely unexpected and completely perfect.

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