He was dismayed how readily he took to lying. He'd always thought of it as a decisive abandonment of the truth. Instead, he realised, it was simply a matter of one word slipping into the place of another.'
Dr Quinn Davidson and his wife Marianna have endured years of unsuccessful IVF and several miscarriages, and Quinn can't face another painful attempt to conceive. Marianna is desperate to be a mother and their marriage is feeling the strain. At a small-town practice a few hours from their home, Quinn meets Rachel, the daughter of one of his patients. Drawn to each other, it's not long before they find themselves in a passionate affair and Quinn realises he must choose between the two women. Then Marianna announces a surprise natural conception, news that will change the course of all their lives.
Set in the lush Australian subtropics, this taut emotional drama poses questions about moral courage and accountability, and asks whether love means always telling the truth.
Sarah Armstrong's first novel, Salt Rain, was shortlisted for several awards including the Miles Franklin. She was a radio journalist at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where she won a Walkley Award. She now lives in northern New South Wales with her partner, writer Alan Close, and their young daughter.
His Other House
His Other House
Author: Sarah Armstrong
Question: What inspired you to write His Other House?
Sarah Armstrong: The idea came to me a few years back when I read a newspaper article about a man who had two families at the same time. I think he was from Wollongong, near Sydney, and he'd had two families for many years (and was found out!). It set me thinking about why men (because all such cases I've heard of involve men) would do this and how they justify to themselves and what happens when they are found out. When I mentioned to people what I was writing, an astonishing number of people would tell me that they knew such a scenario in real life.
Question: Can you talk about why it was important for you to write a book about unsuccessful IVF attempts?
Sarah Armstrong: I didn't set out to write about IVF and the longing for a child, but it winkled its way into the story, as issues close to my heart tend to. My husband, Alan and I went through IVF. At 39, after we'd been trying to conceive for some time, we learnt that IVF would be the only way for us to have a child. I found IVF a profound and unsettling and wonderfully miraculous experience. I wanted to show how intense some women's longing for a child can be, and how that longing can really consume you. It did me. We went through two IVF cycles and got pregnant three times and had two miscarriages. Our now five-year old daughter Amelia was our very last embryo, and Al had told me it would be his last shot at it. He simply couldn't endure the emotional toll of IVF.
Question: Did you have to conduct research into IVF and miscarriages?
Sarah Armstrong: I was a very well informed IVF patient, possibly a little too well informed! I probably drove my doctors a bit mad with my questions and concerns. So I didn't need to research IVF and miscarriages for the book, although there's a scene featuring a fertility doctor and I ran that by the doctor who helped us conceive Amelia.
Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know?
Sarah Armstrong: All characters in His Other House have a bit of me in them, even Quinn. Certainly I drew on my own experience of IVF and miscarriage for the character of Marianna but she is not me. Rachel has some of my down-to-earth qualities and of course I was a journalist as she was. Quinn sees the world in many of the same ways as I do, although I have never had a failure of moral courage on the scale of his. I don't really draw on people around me for characters. It's almost magical the way a character appears on the page. They are not me, they are not someone I know. They might have small aspects of me in them but they are themselves and feel as real to me as someone I know in real life.
Question: There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?
Sarah Armstrong: Yes, the book does explore some interesting moral territory - questions such as: is absolute honesty necessary in a loving relationship? What is it to be a good person? Should we always tell the truth? And it raises themes around loss and motherhood. I didn't sit down and decide on some themes then figure out how to plant them in the book. Rather, my personal concerns and sensibilities organically found their way in, as I wrote. In a way, I am exploring these issues for myself, through my characters.
Interview by Brooke Hunter