A Hidden Life 2 (Chapters 1 – 4)

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SPOILERS!!!

After the prologue, we learn more about Constance Barrington and her family. Constance was no angel, and she was unkind and ruthless with her husband and the rest of her family. John Barrington was a lovely man, but didn’t have the money his wife had, but at the time Constance fell in love with him, and went against her own family, but with time she didn’t hide the fact that she could have done better than John. The title of the book, I think, refers to John’s life. What his family knows is that he was in a camp in North Borneo, and his mother died there. Then Rosemary, a friend of his mother’s, adopted him and took him to England where he was raised. John didn’t talk much about his friendship. John liked writing and even got a few books published, but they were not successful and had been out of print for years. His wife always was always very derisive about her husband’s writing or anything about him.

Constance and John had only one son, Matthew. Matt’s family is not very conventional. When he was in his twenties, he married Ellie, a widow who already had two children. Ellie is loud, unconventional, and very beautiful. The marriage didn’t last long as Ellie eloped with an Italian man, leaving Matthew with her two children, Nessa and Justin. Shortly afterwards he married Phyll and they had a daughter, Lou.

In the book Lou is clearly the main character. She had a good relationship with her grandfather, who she adored, but she always felt that her grandmother didn’t like her, and she didn’t like Constance much either. Actually, Constance doted on Ellie’s children, who were not blood relations, and she was always nasty to her own granddaughter. Lou is twenty-three and has a one-year-old daughter, Poppy. The man she fell in love was a bad decision, as he made her drop out of university and when he started to live with him, he had these jealousy fits and even beat her up. When she was pregnant with Poppy, he kicked her out, calling her names and saying that he knew the baby wasn’t his. Now Lou is trying to cope with having a daughter in a very tight budget. He works reviewing scripts, but that is a job that pays a pittance.

When the will is read, the shock is for everyone. Constance has left her very expensive property to Justin, and then the rest of her patrimony is to be divided between her son Matt and Nessa. Ellie, the estranged mother and wife, is left her jewellery, and Phyll is bequeathed her glassware. As for Lou, Constance leaves her the rights to her grandfather’s books, who is tantamount to nothing. This means that Lou has been disinherited, and it is not the thought of money that upsets her, but the idea that her grandmother made sure that she understood that she hated her.

The family are shocked, especially Matt and Phyll. Nessa is also upset but because she had hoped to inherit part of the property, and Justin is just happy. When they meet to talk about the will, Justin refuses to give a share to Nessa and Lou. There is no way the will can be contested as Constance had all her wits with her when he had a new will drawn up.

The reading of the will is the beginning that seemingly is going to cause all kinds of trouble. First, Phyl asks Lou to leave Poppy with them as she feels that her daughter is exhausted and needs some time for herself. Even though Lou feels guilty to leave her little daughter, he finally relents. This decision doesn’t sit well with Matt, who is not happy with his wife volunteering to look after their granddaughter. I think he is a bit selfish, thinking that the baby will keep his wife busy and he will feel neglected. The problems is that there is danger lurking. Ellie, his first wife, who has been living abroad for years, has returned and has bought a flat in the same town. We know that Phyl has always felt threatened by her as she knows that Ellie is a much more beautiful and sophisticated woman than she is. We also know that the thought of Ellie and her sexual prowess still manages to arouse him. So if Matt feels neglected and Ellie is game, I am afraid what silly Matt will do.

In London Lou is getting friendly with her boss, Harry. She is still afraid of getting close to a man after her terrible experience with Ray. Yet, when he asks her to discuss work-related things over a meal, she is excited. She knows that Harry is good and kind, but she doesn’t know if she will be able to get over her own fears. Apart from that, she wants to write a script for her grandfather’s novel, and I really hope that in the end what her grandmother thought was worthless could generate more money than her very selfish step-siblings.

As for Nessa, she is really selfish. She has a business with a friend, selling artificial plants and flowers. Her husband, Gareth, also makes good money, and the piece of the inheritance means £200,000, and she still wants more. She doesn’t care that Lou has been cut out of the will. She learns that her brother plans to sell the house to a building company, which will turn it into a spa, and he will get shares in the business. Now Nessa persuades him to give her some shares as well, or else, she will tell Matt.

Interesting characters. Most of them are quite selfish and unlikable, but this makes the story more interesting.

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