I have a reading rule I almost always follow – if a book hasn’t grabbed me by page 50, give up and move on. This book came perilously close to falling foul of that rule – I was reading and really not understanding the links between the distinctly separate story lines, with characters I kept confusing, too much domestic detail, and no idea where it was all going. The many five star reviews kept me going, and I’m glad I did – the story lines came together, and what followed was an excellent story which gripped me to the end.
The story involves three main female characters. Cecilia is queen of the Tupperware parties, driving force behind the parents and teachers committee, mother to three daughters and wife of John Paul, with whom she lives a very comfortable if uneventful life. Tess discovers that her husband Will has fallen in love with someone else, and that someone is her newly slimmed down cousin with whom she’s had a close relationship for the whole of her life. Rachel, the school secretary is still mourning the death of her daughter Janie – murdered some years ago – and her life is about to become much worse as her son is due to move to New York (from Australia), taking with him her beloved grandson Jacob.
The story turns on a letter Cecelia finds in her attic, written by her husband and marked “To be opened in the event of my death”. Once the letter is opened, the book really takes off – its contents are so shocking that they cause shockwaves that affect everyone.
There was a lot about this book I liked – the various incarnations of the eccentric headmistress of St Angelas, the very authentic children, the sense of impending doom hanging over all the characters. I wasn’t as convinced by the moral conclusions, but the book really did develop into a compelling read. I think it would appeal to readers of Jodi Picoult, Margaret Leroy or Diane Chamberlain – it just didn’t get into its stride quickly enough for me to say I loved it.
Liane Moriarty is the Australian author of five internationally best-selling novels – Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and The Husband’s Secret. For more information, please see her website. My thanks to netgalley and Penguin Books(UK) for the advance reading e-copy.