“The morning after my father’s funeral, I came home and found my husband in bed with the next-door neighbour.” (Page 1)
Could you imagine, losing the two men closest to you in a matter of days? One lost to illness while the other is lost to the next-door neighbour and his own promiscuity. How do you even begin to come back from that?
In her late 30’s that is exactly what Roxy is now trying to do.
Everyone thought that Roxy and Dave were the perfect couple. Together for more than 20 years with two loving children, it seemed impossible that anything could come between them. Yet, when her father was taken ill and Roxy stepped in to look after his chauffeuring business Dave wasn’t exactly the supportive husband she thought he would be.
In fact, Dave even has the audacity to blame her for his wandering ways. Apparently, if she had been around more he would not have felt the need to be comforted by their neighbour. He seems to have forgotten that her father was self-employed and that her parents needed help while her dad was undergoing treatment. Would he have felt differently if it was his father?
Unsure how to move forward with her own life, Roxy swiftly packs the kids into the car and heads to her mother’s house hoping that a bit of space will give her time to think about her future and whether she can forgive her husband. But can she forgive the one person she trusted more than anything? Can she see past his indiscretion so that they can become a family once again? Or will his infidelity drive them apart?
Suddenly, feeling very alone, Roxy is unsure about everything, not just Dave. She has spent her entire life caring for others – Dave, her children, her dad – that she is no longer sure what she wants. Does she want to return to Dave and become the dotting housewife once again, or does she want something more? What is it that she wants to achieve in life?
Unsure how to move forward, Roxy decides to continue with the family business for a bit longer. She enjoys driving and feels a sense of satisfaction knowing that she is generating an income for herself rather than relying on her husband. In fact, before long she finds herself looking at the business no longer as her father’s but as her own, developing it into something that could definitely grow further in the future.
Dave however has other ideas. He wants his wife back, but the wife that Roxy was before. Not the career-driven woman wanting to make choices of her own. For him, he sees himself as the clear bread-winner and struggles to understand why his wife cannot return to being the person she was before.
Can their marriage survive? Or has Dave’s infidelity led to changes in Roxy that cannot be reversed?
My Thoughts on Her Husband’s Mistake?
For me, this novel discusses two quite serious topics: death and feminism.
Grief affects people in different ways; for some, they retreat and become emotionally overwhelmed while for others it gives them cause to reflect. Roxy is clearly reflecting on her life and what she has achieved which personally doesn’t sound like a bad thing. We all want our lives to count for something and she is obviously unhappy with certain aspects of her life and wants to make a change. Change, however, often comes at a price, and not everyone finds it easy to adapt to changes or is willing to come to terms with new alternatives. Her Husband’s Mistake is a great example of how people deal with life-changing decisions, noting that just because not everyone is on board with the choices you are making doesn’t mean that you should ignore what it is you really want to achieve in life.
Secondly, this is a story that screams feminist oppression. It was a theme I wasn’t expecting to draw upon when I started it; in fairness, I expected to feel frustrated with Roxy but I very quickly became her champion, wanting her to succeed even if it meant losing her husband along the way.
“Sometimes it seems as though women haven’t made any progress at all over the last fifty years. We talk the good talk, but as long as our mothers still want us to be mothers too, we’re not seen as people who are allowed to make choices.” (Page 222)
Years ago, it may have been commonplace for a woman to be the home-maker, relying on her husband to generate the family income while they stayed home to bring the children up and keep house, but surely that ideal should have disappeared long ago.
Women are capable individuals and should not be held back by others; everyone should be able to realise their dreams and I think this is a novel that truly highlights that. It is a story that demonstrates strength to change is often found during the hardest of times.
Sheila O’Flanagan has created a depth to Roxy that can sometimes be lacking in novels. We read about her pain and suffering but also her desire to be something more and the courage she displays in order to overcome the negative thoughts of others. She is a believable, genuine character that you instantly warm to and want to see succeed.
Her Husband’s Mistake is an engrossing read that will see you rooting for Roxy. Yes, it may be a bit cliché in places but it doesn’t detract from the overall, well-written narrative or make it any less engaging or believable. It is a story that may make you reflect on your own life and the decisions you make.
Have you read Her Husband’s Mistake or any of Sheila O’Flanagan’s other novels? If you are a Sheila O’Flanagan fan, which novel should I pick up next?
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