Deborah Moggach – Exclusive excerpt from Something to Hide
The bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has penned a new novel that might not be epic in size but is certainly epic in nature.
Something to Hide by Deborah Moggach
Published by Chatto & Windus
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The Story So Far...
Covering love, marriage, friendship, honesty, loneliness, deception and ageing, Something to Hide is about a group characters located across four continents who find themselves connected in unexpected ways. Moggach’s novel also reads like a thriller.
Petra lives in London and is at the heart of the novel. She’s in her sixties, single –again – and is about to embark on a late-life love affair with the wrong kind of man – again. Her best friend Bev now lives in West Africa with her husband Jeremy, who heads up a respectable charity. Is their marriage as blissful as Bev likes to make out in her round robin letters; and is Jeremy’s job really kosher?
Meanwhile, in Beijing, Li-Jung endures a luxurious but lonely life as her husband, Lei, is often traveling to West Africa for his lucrative business. Their inability to have children is a constant heartache for them both.
In Texas, Lorrie – a woman of generous proportions – copes with a young family, very little money and a husband serving in the army in Iraq. After a get-rich-quick scheme Lorrie invests in goes disastrously wrong she has no option but to embark on a secret journey that will have life-changing consequences.
The following excerpt contains language that adults sometime use when impassioned:
I'll tell you how the last one ended. I was watching the news and eating supper off a tray. There was an item about a methane explosion, somewhere in Lincolnshire. A barn full of cows had blown up, killing several animals and injuring a stockman. It's the farting, apparently.
I missed someone with me to laugh at this. To laugh, and shake our heads about factory farming. To share the bottle of wine I was steadily emptying. I wondered if Alan would ever move in. This was hard to imagine. What did he feel about factory farming? I hadn't a clue.
And then, there he was. On the TV screen. A reporter was standing outside the Eurostar terminal, something about an incident in the tunnel. Passengers were milling around behind him. Amongst them was Alan.
He was with a woman. Just a glimpse and he was gone.
I'm off to see me bruv down in Somerset. Look after yourself, love, see you Tuesday.
Just a glimpse but I checked later, on iPlayer. I reran the news and stopped it at that moment. Alan turning towards the woman and mouthing something at her. She was young, needless to say, much younger than me, and wearing a red padded jacket. Chavvy, his sort. Her stilled face, eyebrows raised. Then they were gone, swallowed up in the crowd.
See you Tuesday and I'll get that plastering done by the end of the week.
Don't fuck the help. For when it ends, and it will, you'll find yourself staring at a half -plastered wall with wires dangling like entrails and a heap of rubble in the corner. And he nicked my power drill.
Before him, and the others, I was married. I have two grown-up children but they live in Melbourne and Seattle, as far away as they could go. Of course there's scar tissue but I miss them with a physical pain of which they are hopefully unaware. Neediness is even more unattractive in the old than in the young. Their father has long since remarried. He has a corporate Japanese wife who thinks I'm a flake. Neurotic, needy, borderline alcoholic. I can see it in the swing of her shiny black hair. For obvious reasons, I keep my disastrous love-life to myself.
I'm thinking of buying a dog. It would gaze at me moistly, its eyes filled with unconditional love. This is what lonely women long for, as they turn sixty. I would die with my arms around a cocker spaniel, there are worse ways to go.
Three months have passed and Alan is a distant humiliation. I need to find another builder to finish off the work in the basement, then I can re-let it, but I'm seized with paralysis and can't bring myself to go down the stairs. I lived in it when I was young, you see, and just arrived in London. Years later I bought the house, and tenants downstairs have come and gone, but now the flat has been stripped bare those early years are suddenly vivid. I can remember it like yesterday, the tights drying in front of the gas fire, the sex and smoking, the laughter. To descend now into that chilly tomb, with its dust and debris -I don't have the energy.
Now I sound like a depressive but I'm not. I'm just a woman longing for love. I'm tired of being put in the back seat of the car when I go out with a couple. I'm tired of internet dates with balding men who talk about golf - golf. I'm tired of coming home to silent rooms, everything as I left it, the Marie Celeste of the solitary female. Was Alan the last man I shall ever lie with, naked in my arms ?
This is how I am, at this moment. Darkness has fallen. In the windows of the flats opposite, faces are illuminated by their laptops. I have the feeling that we are all fixed here, at this point in time, as motionless as the Bonnard lady in the print on my wall. Something must jolt me out of this stupor, it's too pathetic for words. In front of me is a bowl of Bombay mix; I've worked my way through it. Nothing's left but the peanuts, my least favourite.
I want to stand in the street and howl at the moon.
Listen to our discussion with the wonderful Deborah Moggach