Discussion location: The Rope Walk (a return to an early popular choice though we only got chips)

Chosen by: Lorna via unanimous decide in a new vote-in system

Reason for choice: An easy read, has been in Amazon Top 100 for a long time, got really good reviews.

Review:

On the subject of the book’s reviews, we had a few laughs.  “It’s a real page turner” – “well that’s the minimum requirement for a book really” says Theresa. “Literally unputdownable” – “Why, was it superglued to your hand?” asks Susan.

Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret has so far received unanimous praise, though only a few of the bigger newspapers have commented yet. Having graced many bestseller charts for a while now, the novel’s popularity seems to be growing.

The novel’s focus is split between three main characters, Cecila, Tess, and Rachel, whose lives are intertwined. Tupperware-loving Cecilia is an immaculate, organised super-wife and super-mom. The husband is hers, John Paul; the secret is his. Cecilia finds a letter from him to be opened in the event of his death, the contents of which have an impact on the residents of the Australian suburbs the novel is set in. The question is whether Cecelia will keep the secret to herself.

Less immaculate Tess returns to the suburbs when her husband and cousin announce they are in love, and promptly begins sleeping with her ex, Connor, the suspect in a murder case. The case is the unsolved murder of Rachel’s daughter, Janie, who was strangled in the 1980s.

The central premise of the novel is intriguing, a husband who has kept a secret for many years, a wife faced with a moral dilemma…lies, murder, and mystery. From that, you could deduce that this book is a thriller, but you’d be wrong. Disappointingly, Moriarty focuses on the relationships, sex, and banal daily life of the characters, instead of the mystery suggested in the title. Moreover, the story is fairly transparent, the secret guessable, and any suspense subdued too early.

In terms of writing style, the split narration that worked so well in The Help was merely confusing here, throwing the reader in to the lives of characters who received little development before switching the reader to someone else. Despite a few likeable and well drawn characters such as Rachel, the Tess story felt entirely pointless, and the characterisation in general was poor.

The retributive ending we agreed was badly done, the epilogue invoked mixed opinions.  Some enjoyed the Sliding Doors style what if’s, while others found it throwaway, rushed, and flippant. The novel left some unanswered questions – the relevance of the Berlin Wall and Tess’ mother’s affair. For a serious subject, the unsolved murder of a young girl, it felt shallowly deal with, bordering on fluffy. “It felt like a holiday read” someone comment. The comparison on the back, “If you like Jodi Picoult, you’ll love this” is fairly spot on.

Despite this somewhat damning review (from “fairly putdownable” to “literally unpickupable”), we all agreed that the novel was fairly enjoyable, just not what we were expecting or what the title and blurb suggest – “The Woman’s Dilemma” would have been a more appropriate and all-encompassing name. There were a few nuggets of well written sentences and observations buried in the not-so-good. In general, we felt that Moriarty could have written this book to be better, and it almost felt like the book was written to become a film.

Overall score: 6/10

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