Other People’s Husbands by Elizabeth Noble: A gripping exploration of how couples live, love, work and play – book review –

For over twenty years, they have been a ‘gilded’ group of friends… a close-knit club of six couples who bonded at the nursery school gates and have shared holidays, high days and low days ever since.
Other People’s Husbands by Elizabeth NobleOther People’s Husbands by Elizabeth Noble
Other People’s Husbands by Elizabeth Noble

But the discovery an affair acts like a hand grenade, blowing apart relationships and friendships, and forcing every member of the group to consider whether a line has been crossed that can never be mended.

Elizabeth Noble – whose debut novel, The Reading Group, became an instant hit, and has followed it up with a raft of bestsellers including Richard and Judy picks Between a Mother and her Child, and Love, Iris – casts her sharp eye over the complexities of families, friendships and marriage in another riveting domestic drama.

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Brimming with the emotional insight and wisdom that we have come to expect from this intuitively clever author, Other People’s Husbands is a gripping exploration of how couples live, love, work and play, and how the fall-out from a betrayal exposes cracks in a previously unbroken circle of friendship.

When Georgie and Phil Cooper met five other couples on their son’s first day of nursery, they knew they had found friends for life.

Georgie and Phil, Sarah and Dom, Natalie and Kit, Annie and Rupert, Flick and Andrew, Vanessa and Ross may have all been very different but that didn’t mean they couldn’t form a strong and reliable bond.

Over dozens of playdates, cups of tea and Christmas fairs, the women slowly but surely became firm friends and formed a gang, while the men easily fell into a quick, easy and ‘matey’ friendship.

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And over the last twenty or more years, they have celebrated, commiserated, laughed, raised their children and grown older together, with one of the highlights being their annual trip to the Lyme Regis holiday home of Annie and Rupert, the ‘grandest’ and wealthiest couple of them all.

And this year, the May bank holiday weekend in Dorset is looking set fair for their annual getaway, but what they don’t yet know is that it’s just the start of a year that will put their friendship to the test. These six couples thought they knew virtually everything about each… until they find out about the affair.

Now fractures are appearing in everything, and the lines between friendship and ‘something more’ are blurring. Could one betrayal really destroy it all?

Noble’s superbly observed and expertly woven tale is a gripping and addictive domestic drama which explores not just the ripple effects of infidelity on the marriages directly involved, but on the dynamics of a friendship group that had hitherto not faced a betrayal so close to home.

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At the heart of the story is a circle of diverse people who had considered themselves to be lucky in their close relationship, despite bad patches, ‘pinch points’ and fights between their children over the course of two decades.

It’s a friendship in which every single person is invested. ‘They all understood the preciousness of the emotional ecosystem that supported them all,’ with scarcely a cross word, and any bickering confined solely to the individual couples. The last thing they had ever wanted, or even considered, was a divorce in their golden gang.

Noble creates a cast of believable, empathetic characters, each perfectly drawn, each with rich and authentic back stories, and each facing the shocking revelation of an affair in their midst, one which will tear through their lives like a merciless, unstoppable juggernaut.

There is grief here, heartache, intrigue, emotional turmoil, soul-searching and some disturbing truths, but ultimately Other People’s Husbands is a compelling, honest and uplifting tale which will have you hooked from first page to last.

(Michael Joseph, hardback, £14.99)

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