I know around when it happened. I know precisely where it happened. I was staying at that old stalwart, the Victoria Hotel on Little Collins Street. It was some time in the early Nineties. For whatever reason, I was staying on my tod. I cannot recall if it was during the same visitation as that other embarrassing occurrence happened. Of course the ablutions were down the corridor from the room. Of course I stupidly went to my morning bath just clad in undies, t-shirt and thin white hotel towel. Of course, after my cleansings, I realised that I had locked the door-key in the room and of course, that required a visit, in that form of undress, downstairs to the front counter in order to gain assistance. And of course I had to join a line of punters checking in/out. I doubt if the other event would have happened that same morning – two shocks to the system would have been simply too much.
I loved breakfasting in Melbourne cafes – still do. And there was an excellent one a couple of doors up from said hostelry – sadly not surviving into this century. As I settled in with my copy of the Age and a cappuccino, I noticed there was a ceiling mirror immediately above my head. And staring back at me was a large bald spot – a large bald spot that was mine! I had no idea that I possessed such a thing. Nobody had told me I had one. I was appalled for a while – quite shaken. I know I spent the rest of the trip, as well as for sometime afterwards, continuously patting the top of my head – as if that’d make it go away. I thought, over and over, ‘How can that be? When did that happen?’ In the end I just accepted it, it was something I could live with – and life went on as normal. It certainly didn’t send me into a mental nosedive. I didn’t get, as a result, an attack of the ‘Peter Pans’, unlike poor Will.
‘I got my hair cut, right? And my normal guy wasn’t there, and for some reason the girl held up this mirror to show me the back of my head…I nearly fell off the back of the chair when I saw my bald spot. I thought it was some other bloke’s head. I looked like Friar Bloody Tuck. I had no idea.’
And Will confessed to his wife that it was at this point it all started – that downward spiral into his personal attack of the ‘Peter Pans’. Very soon after he decided he was in love with his missus’ best mate, causing Tess to flee from Yarra City to her mum’s in Sydney – and so it all began.
Meanwhile, a Coathanger City housewife discovers a mysterious letter from her hubby while ferreting around in the attic. And nearby, Rachel, still grieving for the loss of a murdered daughter, discovers she now has to grieve the departure from her life of a grandson. One of the mentioned characters has had to coop up inside him, for decades, a horrible, horrible secret – and Rachel thinks she knows who is responsible for her Janie’s unexplained death. Is it the same person? That answer is the nub of the fascinating ‘The Husband’s Secret’.
In truth this is probably not a bloke’s book, so for me it didn’t quite live up to the hype displayed on the front and back covers. But Liane Moriarty is a canny, canny writer in several ways. The novel is quite clever in the manner the back histories of the three main protagonists are interwoven until, in the end, it becomes one story. The decisions made by some of the characters, towards the finale, could be chewed over for hours, I suspect, in a book club forum. And, although it is clearly set in Oz, she has somehow made it mid-Atlantic in tone – thus topping the best seller lists in both the UK and US. Each time I read an Aussie place name I was jolted back to the fact that the setting was indeed home-grown – so more power to her authorly capabilities.
A couple of aspects did jar for me. The epilogue, going into forensic detail about Janie’s demise, just messed up an otherwise believable narrative strand and certainly didn’t enhance it in any way. A pet peeve of mine are also authors who have to give the reader the death-throe thoughts of a victim. Again, going back to the day Janie died, added zilch.
But with a million plus in sales and translations into multiple languages, Ms Moriarty sure takes the reader on some ride with this. It wasn’t quite the page turner I expected – this being measured in how long I take to get through a tome – but in no way did I regard reading it an onerous task – quite the contrary.
The Australian market is so small that even some of our most gifted struggle to make a living at their craft. Getting a book out there involves a huge amount of often underpaid work – so full credit to the author to have had the immense success she has out in the wider world – and that is reason enough to find out what all the fuss is about by garnering your own copy.
Ms Moriarty’s website = http://lianemoriarty.com.au/