Lies Behind the Ruin by Helen Matthews – a complex story of new beginnings and difficult relationships



Moving part of your life to Europe, especially in these confused times, is always a big decision. Emma in this novel moves to France as part of a traumatic situation, and she has no idea of the chief reason for doing so in her husband’s mind. A family story in which honesty and betrayal leads to a thriller ending is a strong comment on contemporary life, and an important insight into the lengths that some women will go to for love and obsession. Following a dream is difficult, following someone else’s dream is even more challenging. As the 2016 referendum result unsettles lives even further, this topical read is a fascinating into twenty-first century life. I was pleased to be asked to be take part in this blog tour, and read and review this strong novel.


Emma and Paul live in London with their daughter, Mollie and Owen, Emma’s son from a previous relationship. Emma has experienced poverty, and is desperate to avoid debt again. Unknown to her, Paul is having an affair with a work colleague  which has become more intense as the struggles to cope with the death of a worker for the company. His behaviour becomes unpredictable and erratic and he secretly buys a ruinous building in France with the intention of converting it into a family home. He elects to stay in England while Emma and Mollie live in a caravan in France, deceiving them over their extent of his indebtedness and relationship with Genevieve. Fortunately Emma accepts help from Henri in France, and has had the foresight to invest in the lease of a bar in a small village, and though it struggles to be profitable for a while, her hard work and friendliness begin to establish regular trade. When Emma and Mollie find a temporary home, they only need Paul to come and oversee the house conversion to ensure their wellbeing, but he is preceded by a mysterious woman called Eve. How will Emma cope with a situation in which all her certainties are overthrown, and there is real danger to those she loves?


This is a novel which packs many unexpected punches, as the less than idyllic life of expats in France is described and the pain of dysfunctional relationships explored. As Emma, Owen and Paul each narrate sections of the book from their own point of view, we see that the break up of the relationships are not easy. Matthews has an undoubted gift for bringing characters alive in all their complexity, confusion and sometimes pain. Life is complex for every character, and Matthews does well in constructing and maintaining each person, even the minor customers at the bar.  This book works on many levels, as a modern novel of relationships and a comment on the complexity of life in a different country. At times gripping and always well paced, this is a worthwhile read which attempts to explore the depths of betrayal within a relationship, and I recommend it as a strong contemporary novel.


Meanwhile back at the Vicarage we are beginning to recover from the excesses of Easter, and I even have chocolate left! Plans proceed apace for a railway concert featuring an organ on the stage of a church hall (!) and songs, poetry and extracts from stories of railway experiences (hopefully the more amusing ones…) Rumours of authentic buffet refreshments are circulating (I have offered to blow a hairdryer over sandwiches to get the correct texture)