Hobart Mercury Review

Oct 29 2011

Domestic bliss not all as it seems

 

As the authors readily admit, this book was influenced by recent media and court reports of several high-profile marital conflicts that have had disastrous outcomes.

The setting is contemporary Ireland, which in itself is in economic and social turmoil, but the events could and have occurred anywhere. While the story is in no way unique, the telling is dramatically different from most.

We learn of domestic conflicts almost daily, mostly from brief news bites or edited press accounts. Here we are exposed to the detailed back story, the intimate personal details of the combatants, the influence of family and friends, and the innermost feelings and thoughts of the principal characters. The reader gets inside their heads.

The story is written in two voices – the husband and wife. It’s an effective technique often employed by historians. It provides balance and authenticity to the story. It could have been enhanced further by adding more voices. Rarely is domestic conflict restricted to two people.

The perceptions, personal agendas and interventions of others in scenarios such as this are highly pertinent, as are revealed here. We learn of the marriage of Jennifer, a skittish romantic young lawyer, and Stuart, a slightly older, bland, staid and ambitious insurance man.

Readers will detect an element of discomfort from the outset. Jennifer is an undisclosed escapee from a student love affair and has had an abortion. Stuart is an only child, lacks experience with women and is obsessed with his work and social status. Yet they have managed to have three children, create a stable home environment and despite Stuart’s propensity to seek order and control, achieve a degree of normalcy. To outward appearances they have settled comfortably into a life of suburban bliss. But appearances can be deceptive.

Then Jennifer, initially out of boredom, makes excursions into the internet and is re-acquainted passionately with her former lover. Stuart’s working world starts to disintegrate with the global financial crisis and the collapse of the Irish economy.

Life gets difficult. Tensions mount. Discoveries are made. Jennifer seeks excitement and freedom and Stuart becomes a controlling sociopath. Suddenly the “wheels have fallen off the marital wagon”.

The outcome is truly shocking.

This is not exactly happy leisure reading, but vicarious insights into the tortured lives of others does appeal to a very wide audience.

 

WARREN BREWER

Hobart Mercury 

Saturday Magazine,  October 22, 2011.