on 3 July 2015
The beginning of this book introduces three characters who seem ordinary people, living everyday lives, facing challenges which we or our family/friends/neighbours are facing every day. What is there about them that could possibly be of interest to me? But Deborah Moggach draws me into their stories until I read late into the night.
The Prologue is set in Africa, the plot revolves around Africa though not always in an obvious way. Don’t read the ‘Dear Reader’ letter from Moggach at the front of the book, save it until you’ve finished reading. That way, you will turn the page, drawn into the story of each woman - Lorrie in the USA, Jing and her husband in China, Petra in London – wondering how they can possibly be connected. Their situations are universal and Moggach demonstrates how globally connected we are these days, globally similar despite our assumptions and generalizations about things we know nothing about. But at the end of the day, it is a book about those universal things: love and lies.
This is a thoughtful book, with dramatic settings. I can certainly see it as a film.
Read more of my book reviews at my blog http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/
Alternating chapters tell the stories of four women in different parts of the globe: mainly Petra, a lonely divorcee living in Pimlico, London, and Lorrie, living in White Springs, Texas, who dares not tell her husband that she has lost all their savings. More marginally there are Li Jing, a childless wife living in Beijing, and, even more marginally, Ernestine, a market woman in Oreya, West Africa - references to the nearby Kikanda tribe suggest it is in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ernestine herself in mentioned by name only in the Prologue; but another character in the Prologue, the rather sinister Asaf, will play (though unnamed) a role later on. And it is through West Africa that, in some way, all the characters will be linked.
Each chapter is very readable, the situation in which the women find themselves in interesting, and we get a glimpse how each of the societies in which they live have undergone changes in recent years; but it takes a long time before we begin to learn - first through hints and then, about a quarter of the way through, gradually more specifically, how ingeniously the stories of these women become interconnected.
As the book develops, the main story is Petra’s (the only one of the four told in the first person), her love affaire with Jeremy, the husband of her best friend Beverley, when he was on visits to London from Oreya, where he worked for an international pharmaceutical company. It is impossible to say anything about this without giving away too much, except to say that Petra’s feelings and dilemmas are touching, heart-rending and, eventually, close to madness. There are many totally unexpected twists to her narrative which, towards the end becomes weirder and weirder, in part a detective story, complete with danger. As the book draws to its close, shock follows shock. And still there are more twists: the whole thing becomes an absolute tour de force. By that time my caring for Petra took second place to my amazement at the sheer audacity of Moggach’s plotting.
A smaller part of the novel is about Lorrie. What links her with Li Jing is that Li Jing’s husband, Wang Lei, a powerful Chinese businessman who also has interests in West Africa, has a reason to travel to Texas to meet Lorrie. She, desperate to make up for her lost savings, comes to an arrangement with him which creates feelings and dilemmas for her that also draw us in and make us care about her. As for Wang Lei, his story, too, takes an unexpected turn which makes Lorrie fly to West Africa.
I was constantly on tenterhooks about how the stories would develop. A wonderful and very effective piece of writing.
on 8 July 2015
Her new novel is different from earlier novels. It covers matters of international importance. I should have liked more emphasis on the Chinese story. the author always winds up the tension until one wonders where on earth the story can go. I was a bit disappointed in the very brief epilogue. I hope this book will become as successful a film as 'Marigold Hotel' did.
As Deborah Moggach gets older her skills do not diminish.
Something To Hide is a simply brilliant story, or set of stories. There are four main story lines that connect up, and the running theme of them all is secrets between loved ones, be it friends or partners. However there is one real main storyline that is the main focus of the book.
This is the friendship between Petra and Bev, a long standing friendship between a pair of mature women. Petra lives in Pimlico, England, and is lonely. Her children are all grown up and live abroad, and her latest man was not to be trusted. Bev lives in West Africa with husband Jeremy, and sends cheery round-robin emails to all her friends regularly, letting them know what a great life they are leading. However things aren't always what they seem on the surface.
Jeremy is back in London for a few days and meets up with Petra, and they spend the time catching up on old times, and generally enjoying each other company, and then the unthinkable happens, and they betray Bev.
Interspersed with this story, you meet Lorrie in Texas, attempting to hide a foolish mistake she has made, with what could turn out to be a larger mistake. And then there are a few chapters from Li-Jing in China, who has no idea what her husband does on his trips to West Africa, and all she wants is a baby.
The book moves between the various stories and locations, and the header for each chapter is a simple location, to give the reader an idea of whose point of view we are now reading about. All the locations were really different, and it was fascinating reading about life in West Africa, although I feel the prologue gave the best feel for the town in West Africa where a lot of the action was set.
Li-Jing's story although seemingly shorter than the rest, as she doesn't feature that, is interesting as she was a young Chinese girl, plucked from poverty to marry her rich husband, and she becomes isolated. I would have loved more depth about her, as I thought it could have been fleshed out a lot more.
Something to Hide is a fantastic book, I loved the various settings for the book, and I really enjoyed reading about the different characters. There are a whole bunch of bigger issues that are touched upon in this book, but I would have loved more depth on them all.
This is only the second book I have read by Deborah Moggach, but I feel that I will certainly be looking into her back catalogue, to see what else this talented author has written.
Thanks to Goodreads & Firstreads for this advance copy. This was my honest review.
on 3 August 2015
Deborah Moggach’s latest novel takes the form of intertwined separate narratives, one of which is told in the first person by Petra, a divorcee in her late fifties or early sixties, while the others are third person accounts of events affecting Lorrie, the self-consciously overweight American wife of a soldier currently serving in Iraq, and Li-Jing, the wife of a successful businessman from Beijing who is struggling to come to terms with her inability to conceive.
As the novel opens it is difficult to imagine how these separate storylines, unwinding on different continents, might coalesce. Moggach does, however, unravel the disparate plotlines very deftly, and their nexus proves to be on a fourth continent, in a fictional state in West Africa.
The story touches on a wide range of emotions – bitterness, resentfulness, jealousy, love and fear of loneliness – though is never bogged down in undue sentiment. None of the characters are particularly likeable though she sparks our interest in all of their plights. I am not wholly convinced of the plausibility of the story line, but I was able to suspend my disbelief while reading the book.
This was not the best of her books that I have read, but was still very enjoyable despite that.
on 6 July 2015
I have to say I was really disappointed with this book. I had it on order from when I first heard it was about to be released. I can only say I didn't think it was up to Moggach's usual standard. Normally I absolutely love her books so much so that I can't wait to get my hands on them but this was a slog.
I felt the link between Lorrie / the Chinese couple and Jeremy etc was tenuous to say the least. I know she says that 'no matter where you are in the world, everyone has something to hide' but I'm not sure proving it was worth the effort, I found the business with Bev going away and Petra going off into the bush with the taxi driver and some gay chap stretched credibility to say the least, it dragged on and on - so many characters who came in once - why I'm not sure, then were never heard of again.
As for Lorrie who lost her life savings while her husband was on exercise and then becoming a surrogate mother while her husband was off on exercise again then delivering the child to it's 'mother' in Africa, I mean honestly! No, this book was one big disappointment for me. I've given it two stars but the more I think of it, one would be more deserved.
on 21 October 2015
No problems with the seller, everything was as stated, they were great, but if you are interested in the book, this came over as if Moggach was writing from a template and included aspects because it met a certain genre. I also thought the preface ruined everything, the book was obvious from that point
on 4 February 2016
In Something To Hide by Deborah Moggach, each of the six main characters, spread across the world, has a secret. Their lives are intricately and cleverly linked by Moggach’s plotting. Moggach writes in the perspective of four of the six main characters:
Petra in London. Poor Petra had been through a difficult divorce. So when she finds love, in an unexpected person, the reader empathises with her, even knowing that he’s married to someone else. Petra’s character is interesting at first, but towards the end of the book she does begin to feel a bit whiny.
Bev & Jeremy in West Africa. Bev’s character is great, multifaceted, very real and a missed opportunity for Moggach whom didn’t write any scenes in her perspective. Moggach didn’t write any scenes from Jeremy’s perspective either, so the reader doesn’t really get to know him directly.
Li-Jing & Wang Lei in China. The reader will really feel for Li-Jing. Wang Lei dragged himself out of poverty with his drive and ambition.
Lei uses this drive and ambition to try to solve the problem he’s presented with at the start of Something To Hide. The reader will wish they learned more about him and it would have been great to have a chapter in his perspective, especially because of his importance in the book.
Lorrie in Texas. Lorrie’s husband is in the army, so she is at home with two kids. That is until she is scammed out of their life savings. She comes up with a cunning plan to earn the money back, but in the meantime can she keep the secret? Especially with the physical changes she goes through as the nine months of pregnancy progress. Lorrie is very likeable and it would have been good to get to know her better.
The pacing of Something To Hide is appropriate, unravelling a plot that is full of twists and turns. What let this book down was the lack of writing in the perspectives of the male characters whom played key roles within the story. The ending of the book is painfully drawn and dragged out.
Overall Something To Hide is a reasonable book. One that the reader will enjoy and be entertained by, but that will leave the reader feeling as if only half of the story was told. It wont stick in the readers memory as a memorable story.
on 10 August 2015
I enjoyed the diversity of settings and felt that I had experienced continents and cultures apart.
I gave it four stars for the characters, their class divides and the ways people respond as a result of their social status in relation to those who they see as privileged.
on 3 March 2010
This book inspired the 1970's a film of the same name which was to be co-scripted by Nicholas Monsarrat. I have been trying for years without success to find a DVD of that excellent movie which starred Peter Finch, Colin Blakeley and John Stride with a cameo from Shelley Winters.
I had seen the film long before I became aware that it had been based on a book. Once however I realised this I bought the book as it is always interesting to see how faithfully and effectively the book translates to film. I was not disappointed. Indeed many of the conversational exchanges have been incorporated into the film with little amendment such was the dramatic quality of the writing. The film does however have a different ending which I found consistent with the psychological profile of the characters.
Although I have read no other works by Nicholas Monsarrat, I feel that based on this effort he was a fine and convincing author. As with other good fiction, the plot unwinds naturally through the plausible interchange of character and circumstance to the inescapable dramatic climax. There are two satisfying twists at the end which make this a very rewarding read. I shall be reading more of Mr Monsarrat.