Cecilia Fitzpatrick thinks she knows her husband inside out, so she's surprised to accidentally discover in the attic a dusty sealed envelope with "For my wife - to be opened only in the event of my death" written on it in his handwriting. When she casually mentions it to him on the phone, his reaction makes it clear that the last thing he wants is for her to open that envelope - but why?
Leaving us with this intriguing puzzle, the story then jumps to another woman, Tess, whose husband has fallen in love with someone else. Shocked and distraught, Tess makes immediate plans to go and stay with her mother in Sydney, taking her young son with her. Then we move onto a third woman, Rachel, whose much loved daughter died many years previously and whose life now centres on her grandson. Shortly, the three women's lives will intersect and the secret that Cecilia's husband has been guarding for so long will impact on them all.
Despite strong word of mouth, I wasn't expecting a lot from this book, having once tried to read another by this Australian author and giving up on it. But I absolutely devoured The Husband's Secret. From the first chapter I was gripped and I read it in two settings. I worried about the characters - I even woke up in the middle of the night wondering how the author could possibly resolve the events that she'd set in motion. This isn't epic literature, but it's incredibly readable and totally gripping - the kind of book you want for a long plane flight.
on 7 August 2014
…and now I do. Am I disappointed? Only slightly.
For awhile there it felt like wherever I looked I saw the cover of The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, taunting me. Every book-email and internet sidebar dangled the secret in front of me like a mouth-watering chocolate fudge cake (an M&S one no less). I had tried to be strong and to convince myself that I didn’t need or want to know the secret and that it was probably something unsavoury or uninteresting or un-something else but the temptation was far too much in the end. Apart from being a little insight into why I have had so many failed diet attempts I like to think that it demonstrates an admirable thirst for knowledge.
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has lived many years blissfully unaware that her mild-mannered husband, John-Paul, harbours a life-changing secret until the day she discovers a letter addressed to herself, to be opened in the event of his death. What she reads in her husband’s letter leaves her reeling, as everything she thought she knew about her well-ordered life and the person she loves comes crashing down around her.
I thought that the build up to the revelation of John Paul’s secret was brilliant. Moriarty certainly knows how to tease her readers into a desperate frenzy and although I managed to refrain from actually shouting out loud ‘just tell me’ I was extremely close on more than one occasion! As well as Cecilia’s ongoing battle with her conscience, one of Moriarty’s stalling tactics was to introduce a second female protagonist, in the form of happily married Tess, who despite having an unshakable faith in her relationship is about to find out about her own husband’s betrayal. Tess’s shyness and self diagnosis of social anxiety coupled with her confidence with men made for an interesting read but whilst I wouldn’t be so mean as to refer to Tess as ‘all filler no killer’ it was clear why she didn’t quite cut it as a solo leading lady.
After what felt like a long long time (but was actually a couple of hours of reading spread over a few days), of getting distracted by other characters, Liana finally decided to let me on the secret. I promise I am not just saying this because it is now after the event, and I want to look like a smart-arse, but I did guess the secret before it was properly revealed. Whether or not this was Moriarty’s intention I may never know but I think it probably was given the way she built it up. The only problem was that once I did know for sure I felt such a relief that I lost momentum a little bit and became slightly less interested in the rest of the novel. That being said though the new problem of how the protagonist was supposed to deal with her husband’s secret was still a thought-provoking concept.
I couldn’t help but compare Cecilia and John-Paul’s relationship to my own and wonder what it would feel like to have everything I thought I knew about Ben change in an instant. I found myself (hopefully not too creepily) staring at him and wondering what it would feel like to find out he had a terrible secret. Could I forgive and can you just stop loving someone because of their past?
Moriarty explores the themes of guilt, revenge, forgiveness and the boundaries of love with an engaging look at the other side of the story. Worth a read, if only to satiate your burning curiosity.
on 24 August 2014
when I started the book I didn't think I would like it as I thought it was a romance. I am so glad I stuck with it. This is one of the best books I have read.
Beautifully written, I honestly feel I know the characters.
Bittersweet, tragic, heart breaking, funny.
I will be reading everything this author has written. Highly recommended.
on 12 December 2013
Finally. Finally, finally, finally. A book that lives up to its praise. This was genuinely one of those books I could not put down and, when I had to, I could not wait to get back to. From start to finish, it gripped me and had me intrigued.
This is one of those books that definitely leaves you thinking, "What would I do?". What would I do if I were Cecilia, Rachel, or Tess? How would I react? What would I want? What ultimate decision would I make?
Each of the stories intertwines beautifully to bring together a complete story of three women interconnected by one terrible secret. The husband's secret. I remember when the secret was finally revealed and I felt this strange numbness. Almost like I knew that was going to be the secret, when in all reality I did not.
While the book did raise questions for me - "How could Cecilia react the way she did to that secret when she was so willing to jump to the sexual abuse conclusion earlier?" "Why did Rachel choose what she chose in the end?" "Why didn't Cecilia immediately worry about her and her daughters' own safety?" it also reminded me what a difference a day, a week, a SECOND can make in someone's life. One minute you're blissfully unaware. The next minute your life is changed forevermore.
I think there may have also been a bit of the personal element in it for me. Having had a close friend who was murdered 20 years after the character in the story but in the same way and in the same suburb touched such a raw nerve for me that I was very intrigued with Rachel's story.
This is one of those books that really does make you wish there were more pages at the end. Having said that, I think it wound up beautifully and, unlike the current trend which seems to be "Get in as many pages as possible even if the story loses credibility or essence", this one was the perfect length. It did justice to each story and left me with lingering thoughts rather than frustrating questions borne from lack of conclusion.
I will be picking up more of Liane Moriarty's work in the future. If this is her writing style and MO, I could get used to it.
on 21 September 2014
As my title suggests, after finishing The Husband's Secret I am utterly speechless at how good a novel this has been ... and very disappointed that I have reached the end and I don't have anymore of this book left to read.
What an amazing read - seriously!!
It had me clinging on to my iPad every time I picked it up to read, finding it difficult to put down.
Normally, I am not a fan of a novel consisting of so many characters with alternating chapters - it is the 'trying to remember' where that character left off I don't really enjoy, but this novel somehow had me hooked. It is written in such a way that the 'trying to remember' moments did not exist - page after page flowed in such a way that I didn't feel like the reader, I felt like a character in the book standing back watching the plot unfold in front of me.
Liane Moriarty, I am utterly in love with your writing style - keep up the good work.
on 2 November 2014
Reviews are entirely subjective and I'm sure many people would enjoy this book more than I have. I usually read crime thrillers but it was the title and the fact this book was everywhere that made me buy it. I'm sorry to say I got three quarter way through and haven't had the heart to pick it up to finish it. There are lots of characters which I found it hard to keep track of, and some of the characters are going through such a miserable time I lost heart reading about them. Having said that the author writes with a lovely style and if you like this genre then you will most likely enjoy it.
on 16 April 2015
So I found the concept intriguing, but was a little sceptical about what the book could do with it. Finally gave into the intrigue and the positive reviews and decided to give it a go. Got through the book pretty quickly, as I just wanted to get it over with so I could move on to something else.
I found it incredibly dull. The major plot and the big reveal itself was great. I didn't guess what the secret revealed, but after it was, I felt that I should have pieced it together sooner, and I think many readers probably will.
I think the dullness came mainly from the characters. The use of internal dialogue to 'character develop' is irritating for me as a reader, personally. It's just a way to explain traits and acttions without naturally exploring those elements and letting them show through the writing itself. I also feel that there are too many protagonists, all utilising this device, but none of the characters are defined enough that their inner voice is distinct, therefore it becomes rather trite. There was an entire major sub-plot, which really could have been removed completely, as it was a diversion and not really related to the main journey enough to have any substantial effect. This may have allowed fewer characters to be explored in more details and methods, allowing for a more pleasant read.
Too much jumping about between stories to try to build suspense. When one of those three stories is pretty irrelevant, you lose a large chunk of the book and this tactic loses its effect.
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty for me was a great read which certainly had everything a good book needs and one thing it did not entail and that was boredom! The book opened with Cecilia who thought that she had the perfect life which included the perfect husband along with the beautiful three girls. That is until she had to look in the attic for a piece of the Berlin Wall and she finds a letter addressed to herself but not to be opened until after her husband John Paul's death. Of course curiosity gets the better of her and this is when Cecilia's `perfect' life goes into free-fall and she sees everything she holds dear to her truly disappear before her very eyes!
But John Paul is not the only one holding secrets close to him as there are other secrets to come out as the author brings us into the lives of other women who will soon touch Cecilia in her daily life in so many ways she could never have thought remotely possible. As so many hidden truths are tumbled out there will be lives within the pages of this book will change each of the main characters lives forever.
I loved this book from page one as we are brought into the life of Tess as she finds out secrets which her best friend who is also her cousin Felicity is keeping from her but will telling the truth allow Tess the freedom she needs to leave and return to her hometown accompanied by her son Liam but will Tess overcome the worst betrayal of all and that is from not only Felicity but her husband Will. But for me the main character was Rachel within this book as her story kept me guessing to the very end. For me there was no way could I have guessed how this book was going to finish as Rachel had lived through the loss of her child and that search for the truth was the only thing that got her to breathe in and out each day but will the truth satisfy her or will it make her question her own life and the lives of those around her.
This book for me really had me thinking as before I always thought honesty was the only policy but as they always said - "what you do not know cannot hurt you" but sometimes the truth which matters to you maybe not be what you expected and the same truth can uncover so many more questions having to be asked and those answers which you craved are the things which can give you so much pain within your own life and those that you love.
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty for me was one excellent book which I would recommend to anyone who loves not only a book of fiction but one which really opened up to me that the only thing wrong in eventually finding out the full truth and nothing but the truth is that once the secret is out and it is spoken out loud it cannot be forced back into the box it was hiding in this truly is a book based on Pandora's box.
After reading all the glowing reviews on Amazon, I eagerly ordered The Husband's Secret. It is only when I read the biography that I realised I had read another of the author's books, "What Alice Forgot", which I remembered kind of liking but finding a bit slow in places.
I am really quite undecided how I feel about this book. There are some parts I like, but I can't say I'm as impressed as other reviewers.
The basic premise is that three women's lives will intersect, however, I feel each character could have probably coped in a stand alone novel of their own, each has so much going on that I don't feel they are done justice in this novel. I got confused over who was who at the beginning of the book, definitely with Cecilia running off the names of her friends (who have no real part in the story), her 3 daughters, husband, schoolteachesr etc. It took a long time for Cecilia to decide to read her husband's letter and I think the fallout got a bit repetitive in places.
Rachel is the now elderly mother of a murdered teen plodding through life looking for answers she thinks she will never get. I think her loneliness was captured by the author quite well, but again, feel like the surface of this woman and her problems was just scratched. I think there was far more potential to explore her story.
And then we have Tess, who has been betrayed by those closest to her and needs time to figure things out. Again, I thought Tess's story had so much scope but combined with the other two females, there didn't seem room to go into it.
I found the book to be quite slow in places and was wishing pages away where nothing seems to happen just to get to the meaty bits. I think for me, the underlying story is a great read, however, I found Cecilia's scenes really repetitive, and Tess's quite slow. Rachel was the only one I had any real empathy for but then found her "resolution" at the end a little off key.
It is worth a read but didn't quite hit the mark for me.
Cecilia is a bland middle-aged housewife, a seller of Tupperware (didn't Tupperware parties go out of fashion in the 1980s) and 'super mum', basking in her prosperous suburban life with her handsome husband John-Paul and their three daughters, Isabel (a character never developed at all), bookish Ellen and 'startlingly beautiful' (and annoying) Polly. One day, when looking for a souvenir of her student trip to Europe for her daughter Ellen, she stumbles across a letter from her husband to her 'not to be opened until the event of my death'. Of course, she eventually opens it (believing that the letter includes a confession of infidelity) and of course, her perfect life collapses. Cecilia's story of increasing misery (which culminates in a self-consciously shocking finale) runs alongside the stories of Tess, a woman who seems to have all the men in the world at her feet (even though she allegedly suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder), who has returned to Sydney after her husband has decided he might be in love with her cousin and who falls for one of her previous boyfriends, and Rachel, an elderly woman still reeling from the death of her daughter Jane many years previously. Rachel believes she has - at last - found her daughter's murderer, but is she right?
There are some books that one reads and wonders why they've become so popular - and this is definitely one (apologies to fans of this author - this is just my personal opinion). There was virtually nothing I liked about the book. To begin with, the characters were for the most part very unpleasant. Cecilia was a parody of the good housewife, tut-tutting at her elder daughter for developing passionate intellectual interests while cherishing her younger (spoilt brat!) daughter for her physical beauty, smugly congratulating herself on her perfect home and organisation, patronising her friends and seemingly uninterested in everything outside her daily boring routine. Her reaction to her husband's secret was cold and selfish. Tess's behaviour towards Conor was also very selfish - she simply made use of him - and the whole to-ing and fro-ing between her, Will and Felicity got very silly and unbelievable. Rachel seemed to use her grief simply as an excuse to be as horrible as possible to everyone. The male characters were all horribly underdeveloped, and I didn't believe as a good Catholic that John-Paul could have kept his 'secret' - wouldn't it have put him in a permanent state of sin?
SPOILER ALERT - AVOID IF YOU DON'T LIKE SPOILERS: But then the 'secret' and the whole plot was unbelievable too. The way that Janie died seemed unbelievable - people don't usually put their hands round other people's throats when they're angry with them - they might shake them or even hit them, but squeezing a throat is usually only done with one intention! Janie's decision to sleep with Conor 'because John-Paul was too handsome' was also unbelievable - wouldn't any teenage girl go for the man she liked best, rather than be frightened that they were 'too good'? If John-Paul was such a good and honest man I think he'd have spoken about his problems earlier - and he wouldn't have been able to keep so calm about his 'secret' for so long. Rachel's sudden decision that Conor 'must' have killed Janie seemed unconvincing - and if she'd believed it for a long time, wouldn't she have attempted her dastardly deed earlier, bearing in mind that Conor had been in the neighbourhood for some time? Wouldn't a suspected murder victim have a detailed autopsy? I also didn't believe in Rachel's sudden switch from vengeful matriarch to cuddly granny - particularly after what she'd done. And the whole Tess story was just silly - if Tess was so 'Socially Anxious' how did she seduce Conor with such ease (and have so many boyfriends - very shy tense women don't tend to), and if Will adored her so much why hadn't they talked earlier about their problems? And if Will and Felicity weren't having an affair, why the big confession to Tess? Along with all these improbabilities there were acres of extreme blandness: endless details of coffee-mornings, of preparations for birthday parties and school fetes (the Easter hat scene, after Cecilia had confessed that John-Paul had broken her heart, was plain silly), lots of conversations about love that appeared to have been lifted from self-help books etc etc. I'd no idea why the author considered the Berlin Wall to be such a major topic in the book (ironically I bought the novel in a charity shop having read the after note, and assuming the 'secret' was something to do with the fall of communism in Germany - in fact, the only references to Berlin consist of Ellen's obsession with it, and long quotes about the fall of the Wall dropped randomly into the book). Comparing a domestic tragedy to the fall of a regime struck me as bad taste. The anti-intellectual attitude of all the characters was infuriating - Ellen was seen as 'weird' for pursuing a lot of interests, and no one else appeared to have any other than domestica and sex. And I found the ending self-consciously shocking and actually rather silly - a 'splatter gun' finale to bring the book to a dramatic close that actually seemed very improbable, accompanied by a lot of smug authorial gloating about 'of course, if this, this and this hadn't happened everyone would have been happy'. In addition, the writing is clunky, the sense of atmosphere almost nil and the conversations repetitive.
I'm sure I must be missing something about the book bearing in mind the acclaim it's had, but it didn't do anything for me at all. I won't be revisiting Moriarty's fiction.