Who is Maud Dixon?
I picked up Who is Maud Dixon?, the début novel from author Alexandra Andrews, expecting a wild and twisty ride. Well, that’s exactly what I got, but not necessarily in a good way.
Florence Darrow isn’t all that thrilled with the hand life has dealt her. There’s nothing blatantly wrong, but she can’t help but feel she’s destined for something better and brighter. Her jobs have been unimpressive, her relationships have lacked that necessary spark, and she’s definitely ready for a change.
So, when she’s offered a position as personal assistant to celebrated author Maud Dixon, Florence jumps at the chance. Sure, the job comes with a lot of rules, chief among them never to reveal Maud’s true identity. She took the world by storm several years earlier with a novel written under the pseudonym of Maud Dixon, and no one knows who she really is. Now on the verge of releasing her long-anticipated second novel, she wants an assistant who won’t spill the beans.
When Florence meets Helen, the woman behind the Maud identity, she finds herself utterly starstruck. Maybe working for this beloved author will give her the impetus she’s needed to write her own book. However, it doesn’t take Florence long to realize that all is not as it seems in Helen’s life. The novel she’s writing is a mess, and Helen seems incapable of fixing it.
The two women form an uneasy alliance, but when Florence wakes up in a hospital and learns that Helen has supposedly died in a tragic accident Florence has no memory of, she begins to wonder how easy it might be for her to step into Helen’s life. What follows is a mess of deception, double-crossing and general implausibility that makes Who is Maud Dixon? a book I can’t in good conscience recommend.
Before I get into the problems I had with the story as a whole, let me say that Ms. Andrews does seem to have promise as a writer. Her descriptions of people and places feel authentic, and even though Florence does make some horrendous choices at times, I still found myself cheering her on. There’s something compelling about the tale the author is trying to tell, and I give her props for that.
Having said that, I struggled to buy into the tale as a whole. It’s clear from the beginning that neither Florence nor Helen have much in the way of common sense. Their actions often seem to be completely at odds with what they’re trying to achieve, and I quickly grew frustrated with the lack of good planning. I mean, if you’re going to impersonate someone, you really need to be several steps ahead of anyone trying to uncover your secret. Instead, Florence makes things up as she goes along, and is then surprised when her scheme is in danger of falling down around her ears.
Florence isn’t the only one with a diabolical plan though. Helen herself has more than one hidden agenda, and I found myself struggling to keep all the secrets straight. Everything I thought I knew about the characters was turned up-side-down again and again, making it all but impossible to understand anyone’s true motivations. I’m all for the shocking twists, but they need to make sense, and the ones Andrews employs here don’t always hold water.
It’s hard to say much more without entering spoiler territory, but Who is Maud Dixon? turned out to be more of a disappointment than a triumph. The premise is excellent, but the execution falls flat. This novel has received a great deal of early praise, something that puzzled me given its many glaring flaws. Still, I suppose there’s a reader for every book out there.