“Nobody in the world knows our secret… that I’ve ruined Bev’s life, and she’s ruined mine”.
Thoroughly enjoying The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as a movie led me to read the book originally titled These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach. The book differs in some details from the movie and is a darker, but more poignant story.
I admire the talent of the writer who can create a set of characters, seemingly with no common bond, then weave them into a cohesive whole. Deborah Moggach has this ability, particularly succeeding for me in that there are no blinding flashes of light, her characters just happen to be in, or of, a place in time where their paths cross.
In Something to Hide, Deborah Moggach draws together the story of four disparate women who live in Pimlico, West Africa, Texas and Beijing.
In Pimlico, 60-something Petra learns the current love of her life is not on business, he is on “monkey” business with a much younger woman. Will there ever be someone who loves her, who wants her because of who she is, not for what they can gain or should she accept it’s time to buy a dog?
In West Africa, Bev lives the good life; her marriage is just one long adventure. Husband Jeremy is a high-powered lawyer but loses his passion for trampling on the underdog and instead puts his considerable energy into a charitable support network for a local tribe. Bev collects every stray dog which comes her way. But is life as good as it seems?
In Texas, Lorries sees an advertisement which promises a better life for her obese kids. This will solve all their problems and as a bonus, she will get her the home of her own she so desperately wants. Except … the ad is a scam and Lorrie loses her family’s life savings.
In Beijing, Li-Jing accompanies her husband to a doctor’s appointment where he is told that due to his low sperm count, they will never have children of their own. Rather than the morose reaction she expected, her husband is quite buoyant and takes her to a home he has built. When she remarks it is a large house for just two people, he replies “We will have a child”.
As we learn more about the lives of Petra, Bev, Lorrie and Li-Jing, even though they don’t necessarily see it, their lives are intertwined. Each character has “something to hide”, so although their paths cross, some of the connections are not made for the character, but rather for the reader. Other connections are up close and personal for both the character and the reader.
Seemingly the story in the prologue of Ernestine, an African woman, who carries her business on her head, does not have anything to do with the other characters, but there is a connection. Immediately clear is the town of Oreya, in West Africa, but I admit, it was while mulling over this review that I put other clues together.
This is a satisfying read and renewed my promise to myself to read other Deborah Moggach novels. I love the way she weaves people into the landscape, her ability to make subtle, but nonetheless meaningful connections. Thanks to Random House, via NetGalley for my ARC.
About the Author
From the website, www.debborahmoggach.com, we learn “Both my parents were writers – my father wrote naval history, biographies and children’s books; my mother wrote and illustrated children’s books. I had three sisters, and we grew up to the sound of typewriters tapping in the veranda, where our parents sat side by side, working. I wasn’t a particularly writerly child, however. I preferred playing with cars and animals. I didn’t like girly things and my hero was William Brown.
I went to Bristol University, worked in publishing for a bit, did some waitressing, taught riding, trained as a teacher, and then got married. In the mid-70s I went to live in Pakistan for two years. After an English upbringing this was incredibly liberating and it was here that I started writing – both articles for Pakistani newspapers and my first novel, “You Must Be Sisters”. This was a coming-of-age, autobiographical novel as was my next, “Close To Home”, which was the story of a mother with small children (by this time I had returned to London, to live in Camden Town, and had a son and daughter).”