Exclusive: Freya Berry on Duplicitous Women in Fiction 

We absolutely loved Freya Berry’s debut novel The Dictator’s Wife. And we are absolutely thrilled that Freya has given us a lovely list of Duplicitous Women in Fiction who inspired her when writing the character of Marija.

Confessions of a Sociopath, ME Thomas

This is the real-life anonymous account by a female law professor in the United States, who happens to be a self-confessed sociopath. Unflinching, sometimes terrifying, and surprisingly humane, the book charts what it is like to live among ‘normal’ people, learning to counterfeit emotions she does not actually feel. I wanted that ambiguity for Marija, that sense of the onlooker not knowing what is real and what is feigned. It’s a unique and fascinating account and, since it’s statistically likely that we all know a sociopath or two, really makes you wonder about how far you know your family and friends.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

An instant classic and the inspiration for so many domestic ‘things-are-not-what-they-seem’ thrillers. Perfect Amy Dunne, inspiration for the ‘Amazing Amy’ children’s book series, is missing, and her husband Nick is a prime suspect. Flynn via Amy is viciously satirical in the contradictory standards we expect of women, and ‘cool girls’ in particular. With the fame of the book and subsequent movie, it’s hard now to recall just how huge the reveal around Amy was, but the novel’s near-surgical vivisection of Nick and Amy’s relationship, and its questioning of how far we can really know the person we love, make this a must-read. The film, with a glassy Rosamund Pike, is brilliant too.

Lady Audley’s Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon

A classic Victorian romp that set its 27-year-old author up for life, this tale has it all: madhouses, mansions, and a beautiful, mysterious woman at its heart. Who is the lovely Lady Audley, so blonde and childlike? What connection does she have with the disappearance of a certain gentleman? I wanted to borrow her captivating aura for my own character, Marija Popa. It’s a sumptuously-told story which spares no opportunity for campy melodrama. Huge fun.

Middlemarch, George Eliot

I suspect we all know a Rosamund Vincy. Her duplicity in George Eliot’s Middlemarch is not grand or gothic – it is mundane, everyday, its very pettiness setting up the on the slow path towards ruin. Beautiful and vain, it’s her secret spending on luxuries which dooms her and her husband Lydgate. And yet we sympathise with Rosamund, a woman never set up to be anything more than a beauty, never trained to focus her mind on anything beyond pretty things. She’s really a captive, trapped in society’s mores, and I tried to carry across the way that society traps women, making them damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

You can get a copy of The Dictators Wife by Freya Berry, here!