Who Is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews
Published by Tinder Press
Available from all Good Bookshops and Online
What They Say
Florence Darrow wants to be a writer. Correction: Florence Darrow IS going to be a writer. Fired from her first job in publishing, she jumps at the chance to be assistant to the celebrated Maud Dixon, the anonymous bestselling novelist. The arrangement comes with conditions – high secrecy, living in an isolated house in the countryside. Before long, the two of them are on a research trip to Morocco, to inspire the much-promised second novel. Beach walks, red sunsets and long, whisky-filled evening discussions…win-win, surely? Until Florence wakes up in a hospital, having narrowly survived a car crash.
How did it happen – and where is Maud Dixon, who was in the car with her? Florence feels she may have been played, but wait, if Maud is no longer around, maybe Florence can make her mark as a writer after all…
What I Say
I started writing my review of Who Is Maud Dixon on my Instagram page, but it quickly became clear that there was so much more I needed to tell you about this brilliant novel (yes I have already worked out who would play the main characters if it was made into a TV Series thank you!) that I had to write a blog post all about it instead.
Florence Darrow is a young woman working as an assistant at Forrester Books in New York, and she desperately wants to be a writer. The thing is, she is in a world which values where you come from and what connections you have, far more than genuine talent and hard work. She starts an affair with Simon, her married boss, who infuriates Florence by publishing her work rival’s novel. When he rejects her short stories, she attempts to blackmail him by sending him pictures of his wife and children and she is fired.
Unemployed and desperate to not to have to go back to live with her mother, with whom she has a tense and fractured relationship, Florence is running out of options. That is until she receives a phone call from Greta, who works with the elusive novelist Maud Dixon. Maud has written an incredibly successful novel called Mississipi Foxtrot, but no one knows who she is, and now Maud wants Florence to come and work for her as her assistant.
When Florence meets Helen Wilcox, the woman behind the mystery, she is intrigued by her, and also wants to emulate her to try and be successful and liked. They slowly strike up a good working relationship and it seems that they are on the way to becoming friends too. Helen asks Florence to accompany her on a research trip to Morocco, and Florence believes that her life is suddenly changing for the better. However, Greta is also pressuring Florence to find out what “Maud’s” new novel is all about, as she is desperate to have another bestseller on her hands. As she types up some chapters for Helen, Florence realises it’s nowhere near as good as her previous novel, and surreptitiously starts to edit it and add words and sentences herself.
The thing is, what you need to know about Florence Darrow and Helen Wilcox is that both of them are purely out to get what they want, irrespective of the cost. Florence is desperate to be a writer, a woman of elegance and class, and Helen Wilcox has a plan to ensure that Maud Dixon disappears forever – no matter who gets hurt in the process. It is when they arrive in Morocco that things slowly start to unravel for both women, and from the moment that Helen suggests they go for a meal to a restaurant in the mountains, their lives will never be the same again..
Quite frankly, to say anything else would ruin this novel for you! What I will tell you is that I thought it was so well written, I had no clue what was going to happen next – which thrilled me even more as a reader. It worked so well because you start out by thinking that Florence is the naive and impressionable young woman, but very quickly you understand that she is just as unreliable and manipulative as Helen. Florence will not settle until she has achieved exactly what she wants to do – and that is to become Maud Dixon. Alexandra absolutely convinces us as to how driven and self serving each of the women is, and I felt that you really got a sense of their histories and why they have become the women we see in this novel.
This is a novel where both of the main protagonists are unlikable, driven and ambitious – and which is why it such a refreshing read. I was drawn to Florence because she perfectly embodies that spirit so many young people have when they are starting out in the world – you can’t understand why you can’t get what you want when you want it. It is also interesting to see how Helen absolutely understands that as a writer you are judged by the success of your last novel, and anything less is not an option. To admit that her latest novel is not working is the worst thing that could happen to her, but as a reader it is shocking to see the lengths these women will go to in order to ensure they are victorious. When these two characters are together, it is interesting to see how the power play shifts between them, and their interactions grow in intensity and deviousness as they start to realise how entwined their lives are becoming, and that they both know exactly what they want. The hook for both women is that however much they despise each other, to ensure they can carry out their individual plans – they absolutely need each other, and recognise that in fact they are more alike than they could have ever imagined.
Who Is Maud Dixon is a captivating and engaging novel that moves at a perfect speed, and I loved how everything was worked out (no, I’m not going to tell you, you will have to buy a copy!). It is a novel about the persona we present to the world, our need to be accepted and admired, and ultimately the lengths that people will go to to ensure that they have the ultimate control over the narratives they want to construct and edit. It is a sharp, funny and thrilling novel which unapologetically has Florence and Helen struggling for the ultimate prize. For both women it is the chance for them to live the life they feel they deserve, and neither has the moral compass or compassion to care about who is destroyed in the process.
I absolutely loved it.
Thank you very much to Jessica Farrugia for my gifted copy.