The book creeps on you slowly, like a fog, until you find yourself enveloped in this tangled skein of relationships, eager to see how all this is going to play out, who is going to betray whom and in what way. Sometimes you feel annoyed at the women for being so baroquely hard on themselves ... Imperfect Women is not a conventional detective story, but an investigation into character and motivation. The real mysteries concern love, friendship, obligation, the disappointments that come with the passage of time and the mysteries of other people’s hearts—as well as your own ... Nancy’s death, as shocking and unfortunate as it is, turns out to be a precursor to the real story here, a long tease for the twist Hall saves for the end of this surprising book. After all that has happened, it feels like poetic justice.
In Imperfect Women Araminta Hall uncovers the realistic and dangerous flaws of her three female protagonists by showing the reader why they chose the man who shares their bed. At times surprising and other times disturbing, Imperfect Women is a suspenseful mystery with depth, a frightful look at domesticity gone awry, intricately written with layers of female frailty and ferocity that are impossible to turn away from.
... tautly plotted ... the greatest strength of the book is how perfectly imperfect each of them is; all three are wholly realized, believably complicated and layered, and self-conscious without being self-absorbed. Though Eleanor, Nancy and Mary are all obsessed with the opinions of one another, Hall uses their microcosm to unpack the multiple pressures, impossible expectations and horrible judgments that women face every day in society, at work and in their relationships ... Hall does not disparage men or dispute the existence of good men in her book, but she certainly does remind us that even as women are harmed emotionally and physically every day, men almost always have a way out of their guilt for it ... Readers who enjoyed Our Kind of Cruelty will be delighted to see that Hall has maintained her talent for dark characterizations and vivid descriptions of violent, obsessive love, but this is not quite the same psychological thriller. IMPERFECT WOMEN is much more nuanced and intellectual; while a murder has been committed, this is not a jump-scare-filled or particularly shocking suspense novel (though there is a satisfying murder mystery simmering in the background at all times). The thrills here are much more thought-provoking and insightful ...You’ll buy this one for the comparisons to Paula Hawkins, but you’ll remember it for the sharply observed and brilliantly explored observations on women and their various --- but always criticized --- roles in society.
While the investigation into Nancy’s murder is the electric cord charging Hall’s...absorbing novel, it also tracks the journeys of the friends and reveals Nancy’s perspective leading up to her death ... Hall’s astute novel unravels a gripping mystery and explores the complicated shifts of personal and familial relationships and the conflicts between societal expectations and inner desires.
...[a] heart-wrenching psychological thriller ... Hall shows each woman being emotionally drawn to doing something she knows is awful, revolting against feeling trapped, and feeling separated from her support system by guilt, evoking both empathy and outrage in the reader. The suspense alone is crafted skillfully enough to hold interest, but the dark portrait of the stifling nature of contemporary womanhood makes this story really stick.
Hall’s fifth novel takes a refreshing approach to the multiple-narrator thriller, eschewing at least two tired gambits: back-and-forth chapters between two points of view and tricking the reader by having a narrator withhold information. So thank you for that, Ms. Hall ... The murder-mystery aspect of the book is handled well, but the psychological novel is a little on the slow side, with much ruminating on the part of each character, and the Betty Friedan–era feminist themes—career vs. family, the awfulness of housework, the constriction of traditional gender roles—feel oddly dated ... Good bone structure.