Widows: It’s all about the ladies

Widows book review

What is this about?: It’s an epic story of a heist, a love story and a friendship that comes out of the ruins of the first two.

What else is this about?: Strong, flawed women taking no prisoners and who are badass

Blurb

THE BASIS FOR STEVE MCQUEEN’S UPCOMING MAJOR MOTION PICTURE, WIDOWS IS A FAST-PACED HEIST THRILLER WITH AN ALL FEMALE CAST YOU WON’T FORGET.

Before PRIME SUSPECT there was WIDOWS . . . Facing life alone, they turned to crime together. Dolly Rawlins, Linda Pirelli and Shirley Miller are left devastated when their husbands are killed in a security van heist that goes disastrously wrong. When Dolly discovers her husband Harry’s bank deposit box, containing a gun, money – and detailed plans for the hijack – she realises that she only has three options: 1. Give up and forget she ever found them; 2. Hand over Harry’s ledgers to the police, or to the thugs that have been hassling her for information they think she has; 3. She and the other widows could carry out the robbery themselves Novices in the craft of crime, the three women make their preparations. Along the way they discover that Harry’s plan required four people, not three. But only three bodies were discovered in the carnage of the original hijack – so who was the fourth man, and where is he now? Recruiting hooker Bella O’Reilly as their fourth, the widows are determined to execute their plan. Facing mounting pressure from DI Resnick, and local thugs Arnie and Tony Fisher, can they stick together and finish the job their husbands started . . .

First up, the movie Widows directed by Steven McQueen is based on this book, but the story and the characters have been transplanted to the Chicago in the US. This book, however, is based in London, and was first published in 1985. Lynda La Plante is the creator of Jane Tennison from Prime Suspect, so you have an idea of what to expect in this.

First, there’s no getting around the fact that there are aspects of this book that are dated — in terms of the language, dress and some mannerisms of characters. However, don’t let that dissuade you from giving this a go.

At the core of this story are four diverse, strong women who are flawed as much as they are fierce and badass and that makes for absolutely compelling reading.

The Women

The book opens with Harry Rawlins and his team dead in a failed robbery and their wives — Dolly, Shirley, and Linda — trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and dealing with their grief. Dolly in particular is devastated because she and Harry were devoted to each other. They had been married for something like 20 years and while they had long tried to have a family, after losing their baby son, they had resigned themselves to it just being them.

When Dolly finds his ledgers, his notes of his past robberies and the ones he planned for the future, she takes it upon herself to execute the heist that killed Harry, and convinces Shirley and Linda to join her. At first they don’t believe her, but then Dolly begins to give them money to take care of expenses for the robbery, and slowly but surely they let go of their reservations and are all in with her plan.

Shirley is young, beautiful and even believes that winning a local pageant might be her way to winning a bigger one, and then of course, the world. The reality is, she’s still grieving her husband and falls apart when she steps on stage. Linda is the outsider of sorts, the one who argues with Dolly the most as much as she wants to impress her.

And then there’s Bella — the woman Linda recruits without telling Dolly — but who proves to be an asset. She’s a different sort of outsider, the one who isn’t a widow, who isn’t grieving and who is able to get everyone to listen to her.

This is all about the ladies

Yes, there are other things happening, but don’t doubt this is all about the ladies.

The cops — in particular one detective that Harry ruined professionally — are watching Dolly, eager to find Harry’s ledgers, and Harry’s competitors in being mastermind criminals (apparently) want the information in the ledgers too. Which means a lot of people have their eyes on Dolly and have no qualms threatening her. That’s when Dolly starts to come into her own, showing just how good a manipulator she is.

Even as the danger around them grows, the women continue to plan the robbery, continue to argue and bitch at each other and more than anything, continue to stick together too. I don’t know how the robbery versus the planning goes in the movie, but in the book, the robbery doesn’t really matter as much as the way these ladies develop and grow — this book has some sincerely wonderful characterisation. These women a nuanced individuals, and they are wonderfully flawed and hurt and really, still grieving. Their therapy just happens to be planning a robbery.

But, wait there’s more

There’s a masterful twist in the tale that took my breath away, and I won’t say any more other than: OMG, I cannot wait to see this happen onscreen!!

Widows is — and is going to be — one of my favourite movies and books moving forward.

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