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 13 April 2016
I was drawn to this book on the basis that I enjoyed 'Gone Girl' and was led to understand that this was very like it in tone. My only advice to anyone thinking of reading this with a similar understanding would be - don't! This is not a psychological thriller; if anything it's much closer to chick-lit fiction in the vein of Jane Green or Cecelia Ahern, and as such I discovered amongst its pages nothing but disappointment.
First off, the back cover synopsis is incredibly misleading. We're led to believe the story is only about Cecilia, but in actuality it's told from the viewpoint of three women; Cecilia, Rachel and Tess. This makes for very confusing reading at times, as Moriarty insists on introducing a myriad of characters very early on, sometimes with little to no explanation about who they are or why they're there.
Cecilia is your a-typical middle-aged housewife, married to the successful John-Paul and mother to three 'beautiful' girls (dare they be anything else after all, in Cecilia's perfect world?). She's an incredibly successful Tupperware consultant (something I personally thought had died a death in the early '90s), a proud member of the school PTA, all round good Samaritan and generally annoying busybody. And even after she discovers a horrible truth about her husband, she still finds time for the Tupperware and gossip, despite the fact that her home life is becoming increasingly unstable.
Rachel, a secretary at the local primary school and nearing the age of retirement, is increasingly lonely after the death of her husband. She's also struggling to come to terms with the murder of her daughter almost 20 years ago, a crime for which she believes there may at last be a new lead, albeit based only on her own wildly irrational assumptions. And then her son makes an announcement which could see what's left of Rachel's world fall apart completely, although she does her level best to make it look like she doesn't give a damn (quite possibly because she doesn't).
Finally there's Tess, back in Sydney with her son and living at her mother's house, after her husband inexplicably decides he's in love with Tess's cousin (a conversation which is particularly trite in its execution). Apparently suffering from social anxiety (and a seeming inability to make any decision without first wondering what said cousin would do in her shoes), she wastes no time in hooking up with an old boyfriend, whilst all the while declaring how awful it all is and how uncomfortable she feels about the whole thing.
I'm still trying to understand how this book became so popular and earned all the attention it's received. I'm genuinely struggling to think of one thing I liked about it. None of the characters are appealing - my least favourite being the wet dish cloth that is Tess, although a close second would definitely be 'try hard' Cecelia - and apart from the revelation about Cecelia's husband and another (supposedly shocking, but actually disappointingly predictable) incident towards the end of the book, NOTHING happens. Tess spends the majority of her time going round and round in circles about her husband and his infidelity; Cecelia spends the majority of her time going round and round in circles about her husband's secret and what she should do about it; and Rachel spends the majority of her time being horrible to almost everyone on the basis that her daughter was murdered and is therefore justified in doing so.
The rest of the assembled cast are one-dimensional at best and I certainly never felt a connection with any of them. All the women seem to follow the rule that you're only good enough if you're slim, pretty, have impeccable taste in clothes and have a successful husband, whilst the men are only ever handsome, good at their jobs and/or athletic. Which made it hard to muster up any empathy or sympathy for any of them and their respective stories.
There's so much minutiae to wade through as well, which rather than add depth to the story or nuance to the characters personalities, is just a chore to get through. I confess to skipping quite a few pages, mainly out of boredom but also because I knew there was very little chance I'd miss anything that was vital to the overall storyline.
Moriarty's treatment of the ending, in particular the epilogue with its protracted explanation of the woulda, shoulda, coulda of everyone's lives if they'd made different choices, is unnecessary and does nothing to raise the reader's opinions of this, quite frankly, horrible group of people. If they were my neighbours, I'd move house and not give out my new address. None of them learn anything (about themselves or each other) and we're left believing that if Moriarty was in charge no one would be accountable for their actions especially if they were pretty, handsome, successful or a parent.
Ironically, I think Moriarty sums up this book in her own words on page 90 (of the paperback version) when she writes: "It was like being buried in an avalanche of detail. The myriad of tiny logistical manoeuvres that made up someone's life. It wasn't that it was dull. Although it was a little dull. It was mainly the sheer *quantity* of words that flowed so effortlessly…"
I certainly won't be rushing to read any more of Moriarty's work if this is anything to go by. Massively disappointed, especially given the hype it's received.
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.
This has to be the best book I have read in years, and I have read an awful lot
Cecilia Fitzpatrick is superwoman or super mum, wife of John Paul, mum to three
gorgeous daughters, popular demonstrator extrordinaire of Tupperware, brilliant
cook, wonderful homemaker and beloved wife of John Paul she has the dream life
and is living that dream until.....she finds a letter hidden in the attic when
she is looking for something to help her daughter who is obsessing about the
Berlin Wall - its a letter written by her husband to her and to be opened in the
event of his death, if only Cecilia hadn't opened that letter.
The contents of the letter are not disclosed until a third of the way through
the book and are so shocking and explosive I could not take it in at first and
had to go back an read it all again. To say Cecilia's life is turned upside
down is an understatement it is more rocked to the core.
Enter Tess O'Leary whose son is starting at St Angela's where Cecilia's girls
all attend and also Rachel Crowley who is the school secretary - they become
involved with each other in the most unlikely circumstances and fate deals
a blow that they will never ever be the same again.
This is a wonderful book and if you only read one book this year MAKE IT THIS ONE,
should have TEN STARS...
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.
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 19 August 2014
This books seems to have been everywhere over the past year so I thought it might be a good holiday read. The first few chapters are fantastic - and the main characters are well drawn and I liked the fact it was set in Australia. But...it peters out half-way and the twist, the 'secret' is pretty obvious. I'll definitely try another book by this author as she has a great observational eye and can clearly write well. But this book wasn't the work of genius that the reviews suggest.
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.