All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Accidental Husband – Jane Green

on March 11, 2013

Accidental2The Accidental Husband
Jane Green
Penguin AU
2013, 393p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Sylvie considers herself very blessed. Having lost her first husband and father of her daughter very early, her second husband Mark has made her very happy. Mark works away a lot as a salesman and even though Sylvie spends a lot of time on her own with her daughter, she wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact she always says that she doesn’t know how her friends have their husbands around all the time – it would drive her mad!

But lately, Sylvie has been feeling a little insecure. Mark’s time spent away has her wondering just what he gets up to during his weeks on the other side of the country and she finds herself wishing that he was home a little more. She’s worried about her daughter, who seems to be struggling with a threatening eating disorder and Sylvie, always a worrier, isn’t quite sure how to deal with it.

Maggie has reinvented herself. From a poor background, she’s worked her way up to be a respected lady in Connecticut society. She has three wonderful children in their teens and a husband who works hard to provide them with the best life has to offer. Even though Maggie knows she’s a perfectionist and at times she’s been hard on both the children and her husband, she’s utterly secure in her lifestyle and her place in their lives.

But everything is about to change.

Maggie and Sylvie, one on the east coast and one on the west coast, at first glance, have nothing in common. But they’re about to find out that they have far more in common than they could have ever dreamed. Their whole lives will be turned upside down and inside out as both of them deal with something devastating. And sometimes, when things get bad, the only people that they will be able to turn to is each other.

I have vague recollections of reading a Jane Green book or 2 a long time ago – probably when I was at university and poor and relying on what my amazing Nan passed onto me from her own stash. I haven’t read one for a very long time though and when I got back from a whirlwind trip to Sydney I was feeling like something absorbing but not heavy and this seemed like the perfect choice. Which it was.

We begin with Sylvie and the reader gets a very comprehensive look at her life – the loss of her first husband when their daughter was still very small, her struggles as a single mother, how she met Mark and how her life changed after marrying him. Mark works away from home a lot, mostly over the other side of the country. This has allowed Sylvie to work part time and still be there not only for her daughter Eve, but also her high maintenance French mother, Clothilde, who was verbally abusive towards Sylvie as a child. Sylvie’s identity is very much anchored in being someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, but particularly in being Eve’s mother. Eve is ready now to finish school and depart for college and Sylvie is having a bit of an identity crisis. She’s not sure what she’s going to do with herself, once Eve is gone. She finds herself becoming needy where she previously hasn’t been, wanting Mark to give up the travelling and be at home more.

We also get the point of view of Eve, who at 17, is finding her life spiraling out of control a bit. Everything is changing and Eve is finding that the only thing she feels like she can control is her consumption of food – or lack of it. She is dropping weight fast but when she looks in the mirror, she still sees that she has a way to go before she will be perfect, before everything will be perfect. Desperate to attend college in New York, Eve heads there one weekend with her best friend to check it out. Her father has always been paranoid about New York, because of the apparent danger but it’s where Eve wants to be. However, Eve will discover that her father has had a very different reason to keep her away from the east coast, one that will blow her whole family apart.

Maggie’s story is different to Sylvie’s and the two women could not be more different. Whereas Sylvie is relaxed, cosy and homey, Maggie is ambitious, concerned about image and to be frank, entirely unlikable. You feel sorry for her children and almost sorry for her husband until you remember. But Maggie is perhaps the character that undergoes the most upheaval and the most change and she’s the one that has to really alter her entire life and that made me feel for her. No one deserves what happened to Maggie and Sylvie – Sylvie was perhaps luckier than Maggie. She was more independent, better placed financially and she had friends to assist her during her troubled times. Maggie’s friends only circled like vultures, crowing over her downfall and Maggie herself acknowledges that it’s something she’s been a part of, albeit on the fringes, in the past. She also struggled with her children, her daughter in particular, who blamed her for everything that happened. Maggie was very alone after the fallout and I think the way in which she picked herself up and started over was quite well done. I also didn’t find it too unlikely that she would turn to Sylvie for answers and also a bit of help/strength. After all, no one knew what they were going through like each other.

The Accidental Husband was a really engrossing read and I particularly liked the way in which Green addressed the issue of body image for teens and what may lead to them being diagnosed with an eating disorder. I also really applauded the fact that this storyline wasn’t wrapped up neatly by the end of the book and that it was clear that Eve still had a way to go with her journey. It felt realistic and it’s really the way that I liked to see issues like this addressed in fiction.


Book #57 of 2013


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