Book Reviews

The Husband's Secret
Feb 07

A survey published this week found that mothers have on average just 17 minutes of ‘me time’ a day. Apparently these moments of peace are spent reading a book, having a (hot!) cup of tea, or watching soaps on TV. Reading will always win hands down for me, with a hand-crafted coffee running in close second, followed by a nice hot bubble bath.

This year I have set myself a personal challenge to read a minimum of one book a month…preferably two. I don’t think I managed to read a single book during Little I’s first year and so I promised myself that I wouldn’t let that happen again. So far I’m on track. Last month I read the hugely enjoyable thriller Never Coming Back by Tim Weaver, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. This month I’ve finished The Husband’s Secret, and am just beginning the new Donna Tartt novel The Goldfinch.

Selecting a book that’s easy to pick up and put down is the key, I’ve found…particularly when there’s a new baby on the scene. They’re not usually the sorts of books that I’d go for, but it’s good to mix things up a bit and try out new authors, and keeping in the swing of reading is far more important to me right now than wading through War and Peace.

The Husband’s Secret wasn’t my choice. I’ve recently joined a book group organised by some Reception Mums at Little I’s school, and this was the latest read. Going by the blurb, I admit I wasn’t too sure about it, but thought I’d still give it a go, particularly as I’d seen so many recommendations for it on Instagram.

The central character, Cecilia, is the sort of Mum I will never be, i.e. ‘perfect’ in every way! From the off I found her incredibly irritating, and I’m not sure whether this was the author’s intention. She aspires to be super mum with an immaculate, well-organised home, her own successful Tupperware business, stylish clothes, and a finger in every social circle. But when she discovers a letter written by her husband, to be opened only in the event of his death, she obsesses over whether to open it or not. Predictably, her curiosity eventually gets the better of her, but not until almost half way through the book. I found this quite frustrating as it felt like the author was deliberately, and unnecessarily, drawing things out for the reader.

As one might expect, the contents of the letter are explosive, and from there on I found the book to become a lot more enjoyable. Without giving any spoilers, Cecilia’s perfect world is turned upside down.

The story unfolds from Cecilia’s perspective along with two other women, Tess and Rachel. At first, their stories are told separately in the third person and the connection between them seems peripheral; but as the story develops, their lives and their fate become closely interlinked. Moriarty’s characterisation of these three women is her strongest achievement, in my opinion. Like them or not, they are incredibly believable, and you come to care about each of their predicaments.

As the title of the book suggests, this novel offers an intriguing examination of themes such as secrecy, conscience, betrayal and forgiveness. I found myself asking the question, what would I do if I found myself in Cecilia’s position? I even ended up discussing the dilemma with my husband. Surprisingly, this book really got me thinking.

I have to admit that I saw the ending coming. There were a couple of pleasant twists and turns, but in the end I sensed it would end as it did. I don’t think I expected it to depress me as it did though, and the brevity also took me by surprise. I had been reading it on my Kindle and was under the impression that there were a lot more pages left than there actually were. When I realised I was at the last page, I was left feeling “is that it?” It all seemed a bit rushed; particularly as the pace of the first half had been so slow.

However, for me, the highlight of the book was the Epilogue. My friend had already said to me, “make sure you read it”, and I can see why. It throws into question all that has come before, and shows that Moriarty really can write. Why save it all for the Epilogue though? I loved the message it finally conveyed, i.e. life is never quite what it seems, and how one small decision can totally alter the destiny of not just one, but several people.

Overall, I found The Husband’s Secret to be an average, quick and easy read. I certainly didn’t feel that it lived up to its hype, but maybe that’s just me as I often find that’s the case with books of this ilke! I know many people who have raved about it.

If you’ve read it, please let me know what you thought. Also, if you have any recommendations for what I should be reading next, please let me know in the comments section below.


About the Author

Wendy McAuliffe

Social media & online PR consultant and trainer, and ex-journalist. Founder and Director of Populate Digital and Mum of two. Living by the sea in Bournemouth. @wendymcauliffe.

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