The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey

Written by Serena Burdick
Review by Sarah Johnson

If you could get back at someone who profoundly wronged you, even if it upends your life, would you do it? This is the question facing Evelyn Aubrey, a once-adored wife in turn-of-the-20th-century Oxfordshire, England. For her, the opportunity proves too seductive to resist.

In 1898, after ditching her stolid fiancé, Evelyn dives headlong into a passionate marriage with William Aubrey, a writer basking in the success of his recent debut novel. She expects their life at his ancestral home, Abbington Hall, to center on their shared literary interests—Evelyn is penning her own book—but a bout of writer’s block transforms William into a cold, jealous creature who steals her manuscript and publishes it under his own name. Much later, in 2006 Berkeley, California, Abigail Phillips finds a photograph of her late mother with a young man—the father she knew nothing about—and learns he was the great-grandson of Evelyn Aubrey, a redhead with Gibson Girl looks who she strongly resembles. Abigail travels to England to learn about the mysterious Evelyn, who vanished the same day William’s scandalous final book was published.

As with many multi-period novels, the historical thread is the more compelling, with twists aplenty and a period-accurate theme of sexist double standards. “It still surprises him that I am his equal, and it surprises me that he would think of me as anything less,” writes Evelyn about her new husband in her journal—words that hit home. To give her a deeper character arc, Burdick makes Abigail a directionless woman in her early thirties (she seems much younger), and Abbington Hall’s current residents accept her story with astonishing ease. Abigail’s journey toward maturity is ultimately touching, and the mystery of Evelyn’s fate unfolds in both timelines with growing suspense. This gothic-tinged novel tells an empowering tale of betrayal and delicious revenge.