Jennifer Weiner, author of Good In Bed and In Her Shoes and one of my favourite American chick lit writers, is quoted on the cover of this novel saying she finds Palmer’s work ‘engaging and poignant and heartbreakingly real’. This is funny because, although I enjoyed this book immensely, I couldn’t get away from the nagging feeling that had it been written by Weiner it would have had an extra layer of pizzazz. They create similar protagonists, real women with real lives and real issues, and set out to prove that idealised versions of femininity might look fabulous on the outside but can be hiding all sorts of negativity and trauma within; that, as Anne Sexton’s epigram reads: ‘One can’t build little white picket fences to keep nightmares out.’ Here, recently dumped school speech therapist Frannie is in a low place when she meets Emma Dunham, the icy cool, emotionally controlled and perfectly dressed new headmistress. Everything is not, however, as it seems. Soon enough an extraordinary situation explodes to shatter the myths Dunham has carefully constructed around herself and her marriage to the hideous Jamie. The book is a well-plotted examination of domestic violence, chasing unattainable dreams and hiding one’s real self. The dialogue is sparky, the characters engaging and this is by all means a great read. If you want to go one better, however, I’d recommend Weiner.