The Consequences of Play

The Husband’s Secret/Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, $16,; Rebecca/William Morrow Paperbacks, $12,

Reading today’s bestsellers can lead you back to more great books.

In this installment, I’ve got a great pair of reads to help us all consider the consequences of what can start out as “play.” My au courant pick is The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, a deliciously rich batter of a novel studded with deceit and menace, instead of chocolate chips and other sweet things. The Australian author set her story in a leafy suburb of Sydney and centered it on three families with ties to a small Roman Catholic school.

Wait, don’t say you’re yawning! Within this suburban bastion of Tupperware (sold by perfect wife-and-mother Cecilia Fitzpatrick) and macaroons (a vice for school secretary Rachel) lurks the unsolved murder of Rachel’s daughter Janie, which occurred decades earlier in the 1980’s. There’s also a sealed letter from Cecilia’s husband John-Paul, and Rachel’s growing suspicions that PE teacher Connor Whitby may have more to do with the murder than anyone else knows. Meanwhile, recently returned woman named Tess, fleeing marital problems in Melbourne, gets more involved with Cecilia and Connor than she’d expected, with unexpected results.

Moriarty concocts a sort of monkey-puzzle box for these seemingly soft-focus personalities, and it doesn’t matter if you guess the outcome, because along the way you become even more involved in the Fitzpatrick’s lives than Tess does. Like Rachel’s beloved macaroons, this book seems rather tame on the surface — but bite in and you’ll find yourself with much more to chew on and discuss than you may have anticipated.

Many books about relationships and murder spring to mind as I consider The Husband’s Secret. But the one that keeps flashing on my mind’s screen is a true classic — and while you may have read it once, you can’t lose if you read it again now. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier may be the book about a husband with a secret, the untangling of which proves as sinister and deceitful as the secret itself. Bonus: The novel’s opening line — “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” — is a classic, too. Why not pick up one or both of these books and give in to your sense of play, whether fair, foul or both?

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One Response

  1. Gina

    Thank you!  I was just looking for a book to read this summer (and I may try The Husband’s Secret now that you recommend it) but I definitely will reread Rebecca!  Loved that book when I first read it, decades ago!  So glad you reminded me about it!


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