In Her Place by Edel Coffey

When my debut novel Breaking Point came out, I quickly wrote a second novel. But after sending the draft to my editor, I realised a different story had been percolating all the while. This story quickly took over as the one I really wanted to tell, and became my second novel, In Her Place.

The story came from two separate ideas that I had been simmering on the backburner for what I thought would be two separate novels. One was inspired by my mother, who developed early onset Alzheimer’s when she was just 58. During the time she was ill, I used to fantasise about finding a miracle cure for her so that she could be returned to us and that our lives could go back to being happy and normal. I realise now this was what Joan Didion called the ‘magical thinking’ of grief.

In her place

Years later, I thought it might make a good story to write about a woman who is expected to die but then recovers unexpectedly. How might her return affect her family’s lives and what if not everyone was happy to see her get better?

The other story I wanted to write about was the experience of a second wife but there was this pesky little novel called Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which happens to be one of my favourite books, and it’s just the perfect book about the second wife. Duly intimidated, I shelved the idea.

But my subconscious wasn’t ready to give up it seems, and so, one day, a lightning bolt struck. What if the woman who is dying is the wife of a man who is having a relationship with a new woman? What if the dying woman gets better and, understandably, expects to return to her old life? What happens to the new woman?

That’s where the character of Ann came from. Ann is pushing 40 and is behind in life, with no career, no prospects, and no money. She has been exploited by her married sisters to do the hard work of looking after their sick mother. So when Ann meets Justin, who is a wealthy and attractive and apparently single man, she thinks her luck has turned. But when his terminally ill wife Deborah surprises everyone by recovering from her deathbed, Ann doesn’t want to give up on the life she has made with Justin. So the question then is, who is the other woman here? And who gets to keep the life that Ann has taken but Deborah wants back?

You can now pre-order, In Her Place by Edel Coffey.

In Her Place by Edel Coffey is published by Sphere.

Edel Coffey is an Irish journalist and broadcaster. She has worked as a journalist and editor with the Sunday Tribune, and was editor of the Irish Independent Weekend Magazine, and Books Editor of the Irish Independent. She is a regular contributor to The Irish Times, Books Editor with The Gloss and a weekly columnist with the Irish Examiner. Her debut novel Breaking Point won the An Post Irish Book Award for Crime Fiction Book Of The Year and was a number one bestseller in Ireland. In Her Place is her second novel.

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