The Secret Life Of Luke Livingstone
Allen & Unwin
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher/TheReadingRoom.com
Luke and Eilish have been happily married for thirty years. Luke is a lawyer and Eilish a teacher. They have two children – Simon who is a vet and is now embarking on a family of his own and Kate, an archeologist who is a free spirit and feminist. Eilish thought she knew everything there was to know about her husband and never for a second did she think he was keeping a secret from her.
A huge secret.
Luke Livingstone has gone on for long enough and knows that he cannot keep going as he has been anymore. As far as he sees it, he has a choice. He was going to take a nice, clean way out. That way he didn’t have to blow up his marriage, embarrass his wife and scar his children. He didn’t have to face their probably rejection of him. But at the last moment, Luke cannot go through with it. He decides that he must choose the other option. The option that involves him coming clean to everyone and beginning a new life.
This is a super hard review to write because I don’t want to spoil anything but at the same time there’s so much I could talk about. What I would like to do is applaud Charity Norman and the incredibly sensitive and thoughtful way she handled the subject. It’s something I can honestly say I haven’t read about before and I found it really interesting. The book is split into different viewpoints, including Luke’s which I found really helpful for getting a clear picture of what was happening and everyone’s individual reactions to it.
It was surprisingly easy to put myself into the positions of various characters in this story even though I have little, if anything in common with any of them. Luke and Eilish could be my parents – married for thirty years, very happily. Or as Eilish assumes, very happily. When Luke drops his bombshell she’s astounded. Disbelieving. Maybe even sickened. It’s not something that would’ve ever crossed her mind. Not something that would cross most people’s minds I would imagine. She wants to sweep it under the carpet, pretend it never happened and they just go back to the way they were before Luke brought this topic up. Luke and Eilish’s two children are told and they react in very different ways. Simon is horrified, disgusted. He can’t bear the thought of it and it stirs up some very humiliating and painful memories from a time in his past, when he was at university. He goes so far as to cut off all contact with his father, branding him horrible names, refusing to allow Luke to see his grandson and then newborn baby granddaughter. Simon begins spiraling downward in hate and fear and loathing and doesn’t seem to realise how much he’s affecting his own family until it’s almost too late. Kate tries to be cool with it. She’s less rigid than Simon. But at the same time, she struggles as well, because this is her father.
But it’s Luke where this story shines. His bravery and courage and determination give this story its backbone because it’s done in such a believable way. He knows what he could be giving up but at the same time, he has to make a change for himself. This is the first Charity Norman novel I have read and it’s made me a big fan. There’s such a gentle and sympathetic touch, a real thoughtful exploration of what someone in Luke’s situation might feel like and might want to do. There are varied reactions and Norman has pulled no punches with some intolerance and even abuse, both physical and mental. But it’s a slow and careful process towards understanding and maybe even acceptance with some love and support. And I enjoyed the process very much.
Book #49 of 2015