A gripping domestic page-turner full of shocking reveals, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Amanda Prowse and Kerry Fisher.
The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It's the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.
Isabelle Heatherington doesn't fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.
But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange's compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won't let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park - and returned home without her.
As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread - and they'll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.
The Secrets of Midwives has been labelled "enchanting" by The Herald Sun and "smart and engaging" by Publisher's Weekly and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally's debut English language novel as "women's fiction at its finest" and "totally absorbing".
Sally has continued writing about women's issues and family ties in The Things We Keep (published February 2016), The Mother's Promise (March 2017) and The Family Next Door (March 2018).
Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children.
An interview with Sally Hepworth:
Can you tell us briefly about your book?
Couples Fran and Nigel, Essie and Ben and Ange and Lucas seem to have it all together. Happy marriages, thriving children, and as neighbours they are the best of friends. But each family harbours its own secrets. These secrets come to light when new neighbour Isabelle shows up in the quiet cul de sac, bringing with her an air of mystery and intrigue. Isabelle takes a particular liking to Essie and the two quickly become best friends. But Isabelle’s interest in this group of women seems to go beyond normal friendship. And as her interest in grows, jaw-dropping discoveries will be made—discoveries that will change the course of all of their lives forever.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I wrote this book while I was pregnant, and edited it with a newborn at my side, so naturally, being relatively house bound, I spent a lot of time wondering what my neighbours were up to. I’ve long held the belief that the most normal-looking among us are the ones with the most to hide. I started to wonder, what if the neighbour’s bin had a body in it? What if they had an abducted child in the basement or a meth lab in the back yard? What if none of them were who they seemed? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book filled itself with the secrets we keep as new mothers--from our husbands, from our friends … even the secrets we keep from ourselves.
How long did it take you to write your book?
It took me nine months to write this book. Fun fact: I was pregnant while I wrote it and I delivered the book and the baby in the same week!
How did you come up with the title? Did you have alternative titles?
My working title for the book was Pleasant Court, which was the name of the street that the book is set in. I liked the juxtaposition of the name of the street and the fact that the street was anything but pleasant. My publisher determined this title it was too vague and we toyed with The Woman Next Door, but there were too many books with the words “The Woman” in the title, so we came up with The Family Next Door.
Is there anything in your book based on real life experiences or are they purely all from your imagination?
Actually, this book was a curious case of life imitating art. I’d written and turned in the book the week my daughter was born, which was great because I got some time with my new baby before edits came in.
The fist 6 weeks of Clementine’s life were bliss. She was a happy baby, a good sleeper, a good feeder. I was a relaxed happy mum. Then I woke up one Saturday morning crying. On Sunday, I was still crying. On Monday, I was lying on the couch, howling. I couldn’t get up, couldn’t eat, couldn’t look after my children. It was as though I’d been hit by a train. I could do nothing by lie there and watch it roll over me.
My doctor diagnosed me with acute onset post natal depression. it took several months, medication and support from family and friends to get my back on track. I had already written the book but this gave me also have a new understanding of post partum mood disorders, and as I edited The Family Next Door, I went back and filled in Essie’s story based on my own experiences.
What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?
You can’t edit a blank page. Better to write badly than not at all. Words I live by.
Do you write with a plan or do you see where the story takes you?
As my books are contracted to a publisher, I need to give my publisher a synopsis before I start a book. This means I do need to plan a bit. That said, once I’ve written the synopsis and my publisher has approved it, I put the plan away and write from the gut.
Do you write every day?
If I’m writing a first draft, then I write every week day. I would write on weekends too but I have three children who like to see me from time to time!
Describe a typical day in your life:
6:30am – 9:00am
- Pack lunchboxes (I never do this the night before. Why do I never do this the night before? Most mornings you’ll find me standing in the pantry at 8:10am wondering if crackers and a packet of sultanas will qualify as lunch.)
- Dress kids (in whatever, and I mean WHATEVER they want to wear).
- Take them to daycare / school. Forget their hat / reader folder / something that causes them to FLIP.OUT.
- Turn around and go back for it. Get to school (late). Realise that it’s book week / footy day / baking day and I’m meant to have prepared something / supplied a costume. Run to Safeway and purchase something.
- Deposit my kids safely over to their teacher / carer.
- – Come home, add water to breakfast bowls so Weetbix does not cement dry.
- – Write. Intermittently check Facebook, Instagram and realestate.com.au to stay connected to the world. Eat savoy crackers or toast and call it lunch.
- – Realise my kids finish school right now.
- – Pick up my kids, endure public flogging from teacher for being late. On the upside, get a park right out the front.
- – Drive through Red Rooster intending to get a whole chicken, which is, in fact, a healthy dinner. Get chicken nuggets instead. Feel terrible. Add peas.
- – Kids complain of being hungry again, because they ate dinner at 4:00pm. I don’t like to go out again once I get home, so I tell them too bad, kitchen’s closed. If there are any savoy crackers left, give them those.
- – husband comes home and I retire to the study to check Facebook work.
- – Call Vietnamese restaurant. Order the number 22 with a side of 12.
- – More work (busy times.) Watch reality television (less busy times.)
- – drink bottle of wine and pass out in bed
Which books have made an impact on you and stayed with you long after you read them?
I adored A Man Called Ove and I still think about it all the time. I love the idea of little lives having a big impact. I also think about The Help a lot, and it continues to inspire me years after reading it.