The Husband’s Secret
by Liane Moriarty
This book interweaves the stories of three modern-day Australian women: Cecilia, Tess and Rachel who are brought together in the same city, during a short period, when each is experiencing some upheaval in her own life.
Cecilia seems to have it all: a wonderful husband, a successful Tupperware business and three beautiful daughters. She is organised and happy on the surface, until she touches upon the anxieties she has with her marriage to John-Paul. They haven’t had sex for six months and one of their daughters has seen him crying in the shower recently. To compound her worries, Cecilia has come across a sealed envelope addressed to her, in John-Paul’s handwriting, which reads: ‘For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick. To be opened only in the event of my death.’
She asks John-Paul about it when he phones home from a foreign business trip and he flippantly tells her it’s nothing and she shouldn’t open it. However, he comes home early from his trip and this starts to raise Cecilia’s suspicions. Having agreed not to open it, she does and therein lies the ‘secret’.
The other two characters in the book are Tess whose husband and best friend/cousin have just made a confession of their own and Rachel, a doting grandmother, who is still finding it hard to move on with her life after the murder of her daughter nearly 30 years ago.
In this third person narrative, we, the reader, get the three main characters’ viewpoints, which work successfully, although you may find as I did that some characters’ stories are more interesting than others and you want to stay with them a bit longer. Also, to give space over to these three narratives means that you don’t get as much character development as you would like. I felt that the woman were fairly two-dimensional and I would have liked a little bit more back story to truly understand them and their motivations, etc.
I found it difficult at first to get into this novel. Having just completed three weighty tomes: The Luminaries, The Goldfinch and Life After Life, the almost-frivolous writing annoyed me, but after a short time I settled into this fast-paced, witty style.
One small gripe is that the secret took forever to be revealed, with the author choosing to hold out for as long as she could to reveal it. The problem with this technique is that the reader becomes frustrated and doesn’t want to read about Tess and Rachel until Cecilia has opened the letter. This is a shame as Tess’s story is actually more interesting than Cecilia’s, I thought.
Once the secret is revealed, we can relax (or not!) and the book swings into a nice rhythm, moving between three character threads with ease, bringing them together every now and then until their stories are closely entwined.
The Berlin Wall is used as a very loose metaphor – and I mean ‘loose’. This got in the way of the story I thought as it was too obvious and dull. For me, it served no purpose. I imagine the choice of Tupperware was also a metaphor for sealing in secrets, but maybe I just read too much into that.
The ending was deflating in so many ways, especially Tess’s predictable choice (yawn). It should have finished up with Rachel’s last words instead of going on into an epilogue. This was totally unnecessary and diluted the impact for me. It was a way of saying: actually what John-Paul did wasn’t so bad after all; don’t worry about Connor, it all turned out nice and rosy in the end, blah, blah.
This is a pacy page-turner and I would try another novel by this author, when in need of something light. It’s easy reading in a good way and I’d recommend it for a holiday read or something to bury your head in when you want to lose yourself in some chick lit.