Second Life by S.J. Watson

From the author of Before I Go To Sleep, comes another thrilling novel featuring another female lead, which is both exciting and disappointing all at once.

Before I explain why that is, let me start by saying that I love S.J. Watson’s writing and found the twist in his second novel much more unexpected and shocking than his first (something I always look forward to). Although I am a huge fan of Before I Go To Sleep, I felt like I knew what the twist would be before even getting halfway through the text. This novel was the complete opposite. I thought I knew what was happening, but I had no idea!

Ok, so now back to my earlier comment about Watson’s female lead being both exciting and disappointing. As a woman, I enjoy reading novels or watching movies/shows featuring a strong, no-bullshit female lead (something I enjoyed a lot about Watson’s first novel). So, female lead = exciting.

What kind of ruined the excitement for me with Second Life was the fact that the lead was not really what I wanted or expected her to be like. Julia (the protagonist) is a former alcoholic and addict who is sober, has a family and is a fairly successful photographer, all awesome things … especially the part about her being able to battle her addiction. I always admire people and / or characters who are strong-willed and able to fight back against something that can often be much stronger than they are. So, yes, Julia is a strong, no-bullshit female lead in the sense that she was able to overcome (and continues to fight against) her addictions.

However, she seems 100% ready to throw her entire life away after going online to try to catch a killer via a dating website. Julia is married, has a child and goes online to try to locate a murderer, except, along her heroic quest, she falls for someone she’s initially suspicious about. And I don’t just mean that they have an emotional connection. I mean they have an emotional and physical connection that continues to develop throughout the novel. (I should probably mention that I have huge issues with cheating in any form and the way the novel was going at this point was already rubbing me the wrong way).

Not only does Julia have a romantic relationship with her online lover, she’s also extremely shocked when she learns he’s not exactly who he says he is. I mean, come on. You mean to tell me that you went online to find a killer and then you were shocked when the person you suspected turned out to be a total creep? What is it with female characters being written as these stupid, helpless idiots when it comes to a man in their lives? It really bothers me. And that’s not to say it wouldn’t bother me if the lead were a man who was “catfished.” It absolutely would.

My main concern here is that there are already so few novels, movies, etc. that feature strong female leads and novels like Second Life that make women sound helpless and idiotic instead of smart really put a damper on other media trying to do the opposite.

In all honesty, I’m really conflicted about this novel. On the one hand, I love Watson’s writing and am a huge fan, on the other hand I really don’t like the direction in which he took this story and how Julia was portrayed. Bottom line, I will still read his next novel (if he writes one).

Have you read Second Life? What did you think about the novel? Let me know your thoughts!

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One thought on “Second Life by S.J. Watson

  1. Great review! I’m looking for a good thriller, but the lack of a strong female lead would ruin it for me too. I mean most people in this day and age know not to trust a stranger on the internet so I agree with you, to have that in is a bit weak! i’ll keep updated though!

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