Luke Livingstone is hiding a truth so fundamental that it will shatter his family, rock his community and leave him as an outcast. What do you do when you discover that your husband - your father, your son - is not the person you thought he was? Can you ever love him again?
Luke Livingstone is a lucky man. He's a father and grandfather, a respected solicitor and a pillar of the community. He has a loving wife in Eilish, children who adore him and an idyllic home in the Oxfordshire countryside.
But Luke is struggling with an unbearable secret, one that is close to destroying him. All his life, Luke has hidden the truth about himself and now he has nowhere left to run. He must either end his life, or become the woman he knows himself to be " whatever the cost. His family is tested to its limits, as each of them is forced to consider what makes a person essentially themselves.
The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone is a beautiful and dramatic portrayal of a family in turmoil from the author of the critically acclaimed Freeing Grace, Second Chances and The Son-in-Law.
Charity Norman was born in Uganda and raised in Britain. After several years' travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law in the northeast of England. Also a mediator, she is passionate about the power of communication to slice through the knots. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. Her first novel, Freeing Grace, was published in 2010 and her second, Second Chances, in 2012 (published in the UK as After the Fall). The Son-in-Law, her third novel, was published in 2013.
The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone
Allen and Unwin
Author: Charity Norman
Question: What inspired the story of The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone?
Charity Norman: When they were both young men my father knew James Morris, who later became Jan Morris, the legendary journalist and writer. I read her book Conundrum when I was a teenager, and was intrigued by the idea that gender isn't a binary thing. Decades later, while volunteering as a telephone counsellor, I often spoke to people who struggled with gender. Some were living on the margins of society and finding life very difficult. It struck me just how widespread, how misunderstood, and how utterly desperate this can be. It was at around this time that I became friends with an amazing woman – a grandparent, and a wise friend - who was born a boy. In the end, I felt this just had to be the book I wrote next.
Question: How does your previous career as a barrister, feature in this book?
Charity Norman: In those days I often met families in turmoil: families torn apart by anger, grief or fear. In the book, Luke's son Simon is so appalled by his father's decision that he feels he can't allow Luke to see the grandchildren ever again. Simon honestly thinks this is best for the children, but it has repercussions for everyone in the family and even jeopardises his own marriage. He's terribly hurt, and that feeds his anger and even leads him to violence. I hope my experience helped me to understand him, and all the Livingstone family.
Question: What do you enjoy most about writing books about families?
Charity Norman: Families are everywhere. Most of us have got at least one, whether we like it or not! They're such a source of conflict and passion and drama; sometimes it seems as though they're microcosms of global conflict. I love the chance to walk in someone else's shoes – to listen carefully, and understand opposing points of view. As a writer, I get to do that all day long.
Question: What was the most difficult part about creating the character of Luke?
Charity Norman: The most rewritten scene would be the one where he reveals his secret to his wife, Eilish. I imagined people reading the words -I think I'm a woman' coming from the mouth of a fifty-five year old man, and finding him ridiculous. I so didn't want that for him. I wanted readers to understand his despair. To do that, I had to understand him myself.
Question: What's next, for you?
Charity Norman: I'm well into my next book, which is set in New Zealand and is about a young person entangled in a cult. The research has been chilling but fascinating – I'm really very excited about it.
Interview by Brooke Hunter