In her American debut, English novelist Raverat describes the ordeal of a woman who learns her husband of 10 years has been unfaithful after she peruses his email.
Kate, who lives in London, has two young daughters and a fast-paced career in the hotel business. Devastated by what she discovers (not only on email, but in cellphone records), she seems disinclined to forgive husband Adam, interrogating him about his transgressions, even phoning the two women who figure in his secret life. Eventually Adam moves out, and Kate’s parents appear to help mind the girls. Though emotionally depleted and suffering from insomnia, Kate must try to maintain her equilibrium at work in the face of fast-moving events—specifically, the forcing out of the benevolent head of the Palazzio Hotel Corporation by two younger executives who may or may not know what they’re doing. The author, a mother of three, has a nice feel for the rhythm and detail of family life, and the scenes with 6-year-old Milla and her two-years-younger sister, Hester, ring true. The insider view of the hospitality industry—the endless chatter about the “Guest Experience” and fostering brand loyalty—is similarly engaging, though this material seems to hover between satire and reality. More problematic is the (over) familiarity of Kate’s predicament. What’s more, her haranguing of the feckless Adam and her petulant behavior—she literally puts the jewelry he’s given her down the drain—make him more sympathetic at times, which was probably not the author’s intent.
There are amusing moments and passing insights into the unraveling of upper-middle-class marriages. In the end, though, the novel lacks the originality and spark to differentiate it from the many cheating-heart sagas that have preceded it.