Charity Norman’s novels have always had a social problem at their heart, in much the same way as does Jodi Picoult. Both women write beautifully, and both are often featured on best seller lists. Not too surprising. This time Norman tackles a subject which could make some readers feel uncomfortable, as the details are revealed. The topic is transgender. No, not transvestite, but trans-gender. Here a man, Luke Livingstone, married for thirty years, the father of a son and a daughter, blissfully happy with his wife, Eilish, knows that he has to admit to feeling always that he was feminine. The shock when he tells his family is palpable, mainly because Charity Norman has drawn her characters so convincingly, that the reader identifies with wife or children, as they try to understand what is happening to their father.
When Kate raises her glass to her father and says, “I’m proud of you. You are the bravest, cleverest, most beautiful father in the world”, it is not difficult to relate to all those adjectives in regard to Luke/Lucia. There are flashbacks to help the reader to unravel Luke’s split personality, and to flesh out this compelling narrative, and there are insights into the make-up of Luke’s family members (including his mother) which definitely help the reader to follow the convoluted path, courageous and dangerous as it is, that Luke decides to tread. If the idea of this particular “secret life” does not appeal to you, then despite your admiration of Charity Norman as a writer, do not tackle this latest novel. It will be too confronting for you, and noone wants you to alter your opinion of this fine writer talents.