A Tangled Web

How does betrayal affect you? For the people in The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey, betrayal is part of their everyday lives. The main characters all have participated in the potential destruction of a relationship or a life.

Abigail is a beautiful young woman who doesn’t want anything to do with love. Sex with no strings is just up her alley. She has many sexual partners and likes the idea of sleeping with who she wants when she wants. So why would she throw away her freedom to pursue, Sean, who is married? With Abigail, chasing Sean is much more interesting than actually catching him.

We also meet Dara, who is the opposite of Abigail. She blindly falls for any guy she dates, seeing marriage and babies in every relationship. Like Abigail, she falls for a married man. But her idea of what the future holds is very different from Abigail. Her head stays in the clouds until reality finally hits her. And by then it’s too late.

Cameron, Dara’s father, left the family when Dara was a child. When she gets the chance reconnect with him, she is obsessed with knowing why he left her mother. Cameron has his own secrets and betrayals, and he struggles with whether he should be honest with his daughter about why he left. Will she still want to see him? Will she hate him?

Every betrayal builds on the next, and the relationships are intertwined in their pain, regret and lies. It’s hard to like most of the characters in this novel, but you do understand them. They are deeply flawed, but ultimately they are all people that we know – not because the stories are the same but because they are all too human.

Dara in particular is a tragic figure. She is that woman who is so desperate to have what she has bought into as a happy life. Only a husband and a baby will make her happy. Her singular ambition is a recipe for a sad and lonely existence. Dara’s decision (you’ll have to read the book to know what I mean) opens the eyes of the other characters and forces them to look at their own lives and the choices they have made. It’s not a happy novel, but it’s a compelling one.