Review | The Temp, Michelle Francis

39947218This book is much better than the marketing suggests. From the summary, I was expecting a fairly standard grip lit / domestic thriller about a talented young woman looking to usurp a successful older woman. We’ve seen a lot of novels like that, and movies dating back to Single White Female years ago. I was expecting Emma to be devious and conniving, and for Emma and Carrie to end up competing over Carrie’s husband Adrian.

Instead, I found a story about two women who are powerful in their own way, simply at different stages of their career. It’s an unexpectedly feminist spin on this type of thriller, and I absolutely adored it.

Carrie is indeed insecure about the ease in which Emma steps into her shoes while Carrie’s off on maternity leave, but because Michelle Frances gives us both women’s perspectives from the start, we know that Emma is more interested in impressing Carrie and possibly getting Carrie as a mentor than in actually taking her place.

Emma is indeed somewhat fixated on Carrie’s career and on Adrian himself, but not in the way we’ve come to expect. The real reason behind Emma’s fixation is a wonderfully feminist take that lays bare an all-too-common occurrence for women in many industries. I already sympathized with Emma for her money problems and her utter haplessness at understanding Carrie’s coldness towards her, and her backstory made me cheer her on all the more.

Ultimately, I love that this thriller doesn’t really pit the women against each other. There is some conflict between Carrie and Emma, and certainly some very understandable insecurity on Carrie’s part that she’s built up a long career only to become dispensable. However, neither is really a villain, nor is either really standing in the way of the other’s career.

In a world where women are constantly being pitted against each other, we need more thrillers like this. Michelle Frances delves into the complexities and insecurities of being a woman working in a creative field (which itself is fraught with instability regardless of your gender), and crafts a beautifully textured psychological drama that also happens to be a fast-paced thriller.


Thank you to Publisher’s Group Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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