I have no idea why I have never read anything by Australian author Liane Moriarty before coming across The Husband’s Secret. After reading a story about the author in The Age newspaper recently, then a review of the author’s most recent book, Truly-Madly-Guilty later that same week by FictionFan, I thought it was time I jumped on the band-wagon. And, wow, am I glad I did! You can check out FictionFan’s review using the link below, although I enjoyed The Husband’s Secret better than she enjoyed Truly-Madly-Guilty.
The main story in The Husband’s Secret starts with Cecilia finding a letter addressed to herself from her husband, with the instruction that she is to read it only in the event of his death. (By the way, if I found a letter with that instruction on it from my husband, I would open and read it straight away. Just saying). Cecilia doesn’t open the letter right away, but she does put it aside in a safe place.
Cecilia is happily married to John-Paul. They live on Sydney’s leafy North Shore (true description, real estate agents and people living there actually do use the term ‘leafy North Shore,’ even though it sounds a bit pretentious to the rest of us), with their three children. John-Paul must be quite successful at whatever he does, because at the beginning of the story he is in New York for work, and Cecilia doesn’t work outside of the home. She is one of those church-school mothers who volunteer for everything, and knows everything that is going on in the school and church community.
The next most important character in the story is Tess. Tess, her husband Will, and Tess’s cousin Felicity have a business together, and are constantly in each other’s pockets. Somehow, it comes as a surprise to Tess when Will and Felicity sit her down to tell her that they have fallen in love with each other. Nobly, they also tell her that they haven’t done anything about it yet, ie, slept together. (I would probably have broken both of their noses. So far in this review I’ve shown myself to be a sticky-beak, and not very forgiving. If this was my story, at this point I would be charged with assault, and the story would go in a different direction entirely). Tess, who is a less violent woman than me, packs her things and takes herself and her son Liam off to Tess’s mother’s home (on Sydney’s leafy North Shore), leaving Will and Felicity to get on with it.
The third main character in the story is Rachel, whose daughter Janie was murdered as a teenager. Rachel works in the office at the Catholic school, which is where Cecilia, Tess and Rachel’s lives start to overlap into each other’s when Tess enrols Liam into school.
I’m not going to discuss the plot any more, because The Husband’s Secret is a thriller and readers should get the chance to find out what happens for themselves. But I will say how much I love reading contemporary Australian books. I love reading about communities that are so familiar to me that they could be mine. I love wondering if the author knows the same people I do. I’ve been a school mum and done Canteen Duty, and made terrible Easter bonnets that have fallen apart before the school parade even started. I’ve avoided the President of the Parents and Citizens group so as not to get roped into volunteering for working on the school playground for three Saturdays in a row, I’ve been to Tupperware parties where someone got drunk and had to be driven home and I watch The Biggest Loser while eating chocolate and chips. I know these characters. So much of what I read is set in England or the United States, and while I love the sense of travelling somewhere through my reading, it is also satisfying to read a good story with a known setting and characters who could be my neighbours.
The story started a little slowly. Cecilia’s dithering about whether to open the letter or not was annoying. Some of the things that happen are a little predictable, but there were also a few surprises for me. By the middle of the book I was hooked and I ended up finishing it in one sitting. I’ll definitely be working my way through Liane Moriarty’s other books soon. And lastly, a newsflash to my husband, if you are reading this – don’t get any ideas…