Infidelity and Other Affairs
Thames & Hudson, $34.99 pb, 210 pp
When journalist Kate Legge’s husband of twenty-five years – former Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood – cheated on her with one of her girlfriends, she was discouraged from taking revenge in her most natural of forums: the printed word. Legge, who at the time worked as a features writer at The Australian newspaper, was lucky enough to have a wise adviser and fellow wordsmith discourage her from an impetuous dash to publish and be damned, or what Legge refers to as ‘every writer’s therapeutic reflex’. Instead, Legge, aware that the aftermath of an affair is not the time for momentous declarations or public confessions – and wanting to protect their two sons – adopts a double life: smiling grimly through workdays and functions, while internally afflicted by grief, self-hatred, fury, and an increased vigilance of her husband and his devices. When she discovers not one but two mistresses, she forwards the emails of one paramour to the other, puncturing any fantasies that they were unique in Hywood’s eyes.
Infidelity and Other Affairs was written more than a decade after Legge’s marriage came apart. While the work benefits from hindsight, it is clear the wound is yet to fully heal, although Legge is impressively restrained when meting out blame. The deceit must have been breathtaking. She was with Hywood for close to three decades; longer than she had known her own mother, who died when she was twenty-three. They enjoyed a life of shifting addresses, of setting up home in foreign cities and re-establishing routines and journalism careers in new places. They enjoyed a circle of close friends and holidayed with other couples. Hywood’s betrayal was with a woman whom Legge had once considered a close friend. Legge is a stylish writer, given to thoughtful and considered expression, and yet the most powerful moments are ones of telling brevity: ‘He called us quits,’ she writes after Hywood, whom Legge still calls her husband, moves to Sydney to helm a media company. When a letter of apology arrives from the mistress on grey Basildon Bond notepaper, Legge informs us drily: ‘I shredded it.’