I knew that Alec had a secret. When Olivia reaches the cottage in her husband’s Audi and lets herself in, she is welcomed by someone calling ‘Dad is here’. Then a boy of about twelve appears and stops dead in his tracks. Olivia notices a vase of red roses and the table is laid for three. Then a woman appears. It is Katie, the housekeeper, and she asks where Alec is. Robert had sent the email to Katie announcing the visit from Alec’s account, and seeing Alec’s Audi from the upstairs window, she has thought it was Alec. Then Olivia tells her that Alec died a few weeks ago, and Katie bursts into sobs. Olivia asks what is going on, and then Katie tells her that Leo is Alec’s other son, and naturally Olivia kicks her out.
Poor Olivia. She has always thought that her husband was perfect until the very end, and now she discovers that all the weekends and other weeks he spent in the cottage, allegedly to write, were just a ruse to visit her lover. After that, Olivia gets angry and wild, destroying the things that her husband was fond of, even the apple tree, which she cuts down and burns. She even lets the house go untidy, which is how her children find it. Yet, Olivia finds unable to talk about Katie and the boy to Freya, who she knows was close to her dad.
Freya has problems of her own. She is under investigation at work. One of her patients Melanie brought her baby Ava for then umpteenth time, and after a quick examination, Freya concluded that the baby only had a summer cold. Then the following week her boss comes to talk to Freya, and she tells her that Melanie’s baby Ava was admitted in hospital with bronchial pneumonia, and Melanie has lodged a complaint against her, even stating that she saw a bottle of gin in Freya’s handbag, which is true. Freya swears that she examined Ava and didn’t see any signs that she had any serious problems, and she definitely didn’t have booze in the surgery. Elizabeth, the boss, believes her, but there is going to be some kind of inquest if Melanie insists on reporting Freya.
This is not Freya’s only problem. She keeps drinking more and more every day as a way to cope with stress. Things with Victor, her husband, are not perfect. Victor is a policeman, and recently he was in hospital after being stabbed on duty, which made him some kind of hero. As a consequence, he was sent to a two-week training course, leaving Freya alone, and now when he returns, the same night after two weeks he goes out to be with his friends, letting his wife down. Freya feels that Victor doesn’t seem to care about her much any longer, and all he talks about is his pals at work.
The couple has three children: Dexter, who is twelve, Libby, who is nine, and Teddy, who is 6. The three children are very different. Dexter, who we learn was a premature baby, fighting for his life for the first months, has become a very serious, determined child. His sister, Libby, who I think is my favourite, is cute, quirky, and has peculiar tastes in food. And Teddy is also a bit peculiar, having invented his own rhyming slang, and he is a force of his own.
As for Robert, Freya’s brother, he is married to Harriet, who has a fifteen-year-old daughter Molly from her first marriage. The marriage ended when Harried discovered that her husband Simon was cheating on her. Robert and Harriet are happy. Robert has recently quit her courier job to write a book, which he claims is to be published soon. Yet, we know he is lying to Harried, and the party or meetings with his editor are a fantasy. Harriet almost catches him when she saw that the pub where he was supposed to have the meeting was closed for two weeks for repairs. Harriet confronts him straightaway, as she thinks that the reason why he lied was that he had a lover. Yet, Robert gets away with him, telling her that she must have heard wrong and the pub where she had the meeting is another one. I imagine that the reason why he is lying is because he feels ashamed and humiliated that after leaving his steady job, his venture in writing the book has proved to be a failure. I wonder what Robert expects to happen because sooner or later his lies will come out and I’m pretty sure that Harriet won’t appreciate being lied to.
I am enjoying the book. The whole family has secrets, and I imagine that sooner or later they will be discovered during the summer holidays. What will Freya and Robert make of their father’s unfaithfulness? Katie told Freya when she called that she needed to talk to all of them. I am curious to hear her account of the situation, and how the others will react.