One year after releasing her fourth novel, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ruth Ware just shared a companion novella, The Tale of Mrs. Westaway. It’s her first short story, and it’s also her first release available only as a free ebook.
If you – like me! – loved The Death of Mrs. Westaway, then you’ll be thrilled to see the story continue in this new companion piece. The Tale of Mrs. Westaway dives into the backstory of the titular Hester Westaway, whom we never got to know much in the 2018 novel, owing to the fact that she was, well, dead. The 1990s flashbacks showed her in an unfavorable light, as did the accounts of her grown children. Indeed, it seems she was quite tough and cold.
In this new short story, we start decades earlier, when Hester Westaway was newly married and spent some time in a mental hospital. We see her through the eyes of her doctor there, a man named Dr. Alderney, who gets to see Hester as she was. During her one-on-one meetings with the doctor, first in the hospital and later as friends in the following years, Hester reveals her own childhood and the love she felt for the young Mr. Westaway. Their courtship was long, broken up by his serving in WWII and the PTSD he suffered thereafter.
Hester’s story grows more tragic as time goes on, uncovering deaths, abuse, seclusion, and depression. Although Hester began as a kind, warm young woman, years of pain led her to grow withdrawn, bitter, and angry. We get to learn why Mrs. Westaway was so cold to her children. It’s a sad backstory that paints Mrs. Westaway in more forgiving light. She wasn’t nasty by nature; it was simply a response to long-term suffering.
The Tale of Mrs. Westaway isn’t really a thriller or even a mystery, unlike Ruth Ware’s four full-length books… though it does have a little shock near the end. Instead, it’s a psychological drama that unfolds slowly, giving new perspective to its companion novel. It adds depth to The Death of Mrs. Westaway – without any spoilers, in case you haven’t read the 2018 novel yet – and it could easily have been worked into a gripping full-length book.