Opening Pandora’s Box The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty


The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty is an innocent seeming, even innocuous book. People magazine touted it as “perfect vacation reading“, which it could be if you would be all right with abandoning everything else to devote your entire attention to this story. Cleverly disguised as women’s fiction what I found instead was a terrifyingly real psychological thriller for lack of a better classification, there is none of the typical earmarks of the genre yet it is a deeply disquieting read.

SYNOPSIS – At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read

My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died. . .

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . 
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Gustav Doré Bluebeard

Moriarty has taken the Greek myth of Pandora’s Box and married it to the French literary folktale of Bluebeard and created a tale that would give even the most secure of married women pause. According to the legend of Pandora’s Box, the brothers Epimetheus and Prometheus were tasked with populating the Earth, unfortunately they soon exhausted the gifts they were provided with to accomplish this task leaving man without defence. The brothers theft of fire from the gods to give to man angered Zeus and in retribution he created Pandora and the infamous box with whom he offered to Epimetheus as a bride and gift. Epimetheus being the Titan god of afterthought would not have recognized the risk accepting such a gift would bear until after.

The fatal effects of feminine curiosity have long been the subject of story and legend. Lot’s wifePandora, and Psyche are all examples of patriarchal stories where women’s curiosity is punished by dire consequences.

  • Title: The Husband’s Secret
  • Author: Liane Moriarty
  • ISBN: 0399159347 (ISBN13: 9780399159343)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published:  July 30th 2013 by Putnam Adult (first published April 26th 2013)
  • Format: eBook
  • Genre/s: Women’s Fiction
  • Print Length: 394 pages
  • Source: Purchased
  • Rating: A

Cecilia’s life is pretty much perfect, she has three lovely daughters, a handsome husband and a flourishing business but is it all a façade? While in the attic filing her taxes she comes upon a letter addressed to her from her husband with instructions that it is to be opened upon his death, only her husband is not dead. For Cecilia, the moment she touched the envelope her path was set no matter the consequences, it was inevitable that she would read the letter, as Pandora would open the box loosing disease, pestilence and any number of evils onto the world.

Tess’ life in it’s own way seemed as idyllic as Cecilia’s, she, her cousin/best friend and her husband have created their own advertising agency. She has a healthy if not entirely happy six year old boy. She is living the suburban dream until her newly svelte cousin and husband tell her that they have fallen in love.

Rachel, the eldest of the three women is widowed and the sole highlight of her life is her young grandson. She is devastated when her son informs her that he and his family will be moving halfway across the world from Melbourne, Australia to New York  City to further his wife’s career.

The idea that through one act, the years that one has spent carefully constructing a life, raising children, accommodating mother’s in law, working and the myriad of other things we do to maintain our carefully constructed world, it could all be taken away is almost incomprehensible. I read this novel with a unwavering sense of horrified fascination, Liane Moriarty’s tale expertly strips away the small but tangible sense of distance we often have when reading fiction giving us that sense of security in thinking “it’s only a story“. I found that I identified strongly with the three central characters and defy any woman not to. It was all too easy to put one’s self in their place, another cat to fall victim to curiosity. This exploration of love, betrayal and ultimately hope the last object loosed from Pandora’s Box, is not to be missed.


Liane-MoriartyShe can’t remember the first story she ever wrote, but she does remember her first publishing deal. Her father ‘commissioned’ her to write a novel for him and paid her an advance of $1.00. She wrote a three volume epic called, ‘The Mystery of Dead Man’s Island’

After leaving school, Liane began a career in advertising and marketing. She became quite corporate for a while and wore suits and worried a lot about the size of her office. She eventually left her position as marketing manager of a legal publishing company to run her own (not especially successful) business called The Little Ad Agency. After that she worked as (a more successful, thankfully) freelance advertising copywriter, writing everything from websites and TV commercials to the back of the Sultana Bran box.

She also wrote short stories and many first chapters of novels that didn’t go any further. The problem was that she didn’t actually believe that real people had novels published. Then one day she found out that they did, when her younger sister Jaclyn Moriarty called to say that her (brilliant, hilarious, award-winning) novel, Feeling Sorry for Celia was about to be published.

In a fever of sibling rivalry, Liane rushed to the computer and wrote a children’s book called The Animal Olympics, which went on to be enthusiastically rejected by every publisher in Australia.

She calmed down and enrolled in a Masters degree at Macquarie University in Sydney. As part of that degree, she wrote her first novel, Three Wishes. It was accepted by the lovely people at Pan Macmillan and went on to be published around the world. (Her latest books are published by the equally lovely people at Amy Einhorn Books in the US and Penguin in the UK)

Since then she has written four more novels for adults, as well as a series of books for children.

In August 2013 Liane’s fifth novel The Husband’s Secret was released in the US and within two weeks had climbed the charts to become a #1 New York Times Bestseller. Much champagne was drunk.

Liane’s youngest sister Nicola Moriarty has also released 2 novels, a wonderful, gripping story called Free-falling and her brilliant follow up novel, Paper Chains published by Random House.

Liane is now a full-time author. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two small children who like to climb all over her while she tries to write helpfully smashing their fists against the keyboard and suggesting she might like to watch the Wiggles instead.


3 thoughts on “Opening Pandora’s Box The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty”

  1. I jist finished reading this book last week. I agree that it was terribly unsettling to see how easy it was to empathize and understand the actions and reactions of the three women. I felt like I was holding my breath the entire time I was reading it.

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