Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Liane Moriarty’

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I loved Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty! I’ve been a bit hit and miss with this author’s books in the past, as I’ve loved the contemporary Australian settings and characters of her stories, but have disliked her story-telling technique her characters all knowing something which the reader doesn’t, and not telling. Nine Perfect Strangers tells the story without harking back to anything and I found this a far more enjoyable read.

The story follows nine people who meet at a health and wellness retreat in a remote location in Australia.

The main characters include Frances, a middle-aged, overweight author, whose most recent romance novel has been rejected by her publisher, Ben and Jessica, whose marriage is failing after they won millions of dollars in the lottery, Tony, a former AFL star and Carmel, whose husband recently dumped her for a younger woman. More minor characters included a bereaved family of three and an extraordinarily handsome man who regularly holidays at health retreats.

The retreat at Tranquillum House began with massages, mindful (?) walks in the bush and a diet tailored to each of the guest’s needs, along with a five-day period of silence, however things went pear-shaped when the retreat’s director used illegal and unconventional treatments on her guests without their awareness or consent.

Top moments for me included a section where Frances found herself in an imaginary conversation with dead friend and insisted that she was a fictional character, and the protagonist, no less. I laughed out loud.

I also found myself smiling when divorced mother-of-four Carmel realised that in exchange for her husband, she’d got herself an upgrade, because his new wife wanted to be involved in the children’s lives and was mad to take the girls to their ballet lessons and all that that entailed. For those of you who have never experienced children’s dance schools, trust me, you’ve had a lucky escape. Parents are expected to sew costumes, gather wispy strands of baby-fine hair into buns, put make-up on children without making them look like clowns then sit through endless performances of tiny children wandering aimlessly around on stage before their own child finally gets to perform in their own blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. And take it from me, when your own child finally makes it on to the stage, you won’t be able see them anyway became they will be hidden behind some other kid who is the size of a truck… Or you’ll be asleep.

Nine Perfect Strangers is a funny book with an over-the-top plot and great characters, The story is light and enjoyable and would make a great beach read.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty


I suspect that in conversation, Australian author Liane Moriarty is able to keep her audience hanging on her every word, waiting for a punchline or an unexpected twist to a story or anecdote, however Truly Madly Guilty kept me waiting so long to find out what actually happened to the characters in the story that I became more irritable than usual.

Page 1. Something happened at a barbecue Clementine went to.

Page 56. I’m still happily reading away, waiting to find out what happened at the barbecue that Clementine, her husband and children and two other couples attended in suburban Sydney.

Page 81. Whatever happened at the barbecue (I still don’t know what) has affected Clementine and Sam’s marriage. Clementine and Sam seem like a lovely couple, she plays the cello, he is a good bloke, and they have two little girls together.

Page 145. Erika, who is best friends with Clementine, also went to the barbecue, but she can’t remember what happened. Erika is obsessive-compulsive and really, really annoying. She knows everything (and has an opinion about) everything else that ever happened to Clementine, but she can’t remember what happened at the flaming barbecue. Sigh. I still don’t know what happened at the barbecue either.

Page 198. I’m still waiting to find out what happened at the barbecue…

Page 222. Still waiting to find out what happened at the barbecue (wishing the characters had all stayed home instead).

Page 232. The thing that happened at the barbecue is finally revealed. It’s bad, but the result could have been worse. They were lucky.

Page 307. Everyone who attended the barbecue continue to struggle with the fall out.

P 367. I look up the recipe for Cremeschnitte, because Vic made it for everyone at the barbecue and Clementine in particular, loved it. Imagine a sort of vanilla slice with a puff pastry base, and a creamy, custardy filling. Yum. I’ve kept the recipe and will make it sometime soon. I can’t understand why Tiffany, Vic’s wife, isn’t the size of a house.

Pages 392 and 411. Other thing that happened at the barbecue are revealed. (I didn’t see either of those things coming).

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty was similar to Truly Madly Guilty in that all of the characters knew something that was not revealed to the reader for some time. I enjoyed both stories, but sometimes you just want to know what is going on. I like this author’s writing style and the familiarity of the Australian setting (although let’s be honest, Sydney-siders are different to Melbournites) but some of the characters were a bit too much to take. One couple were overly hip and angsty, another couple so obsessive and needy that in real-life you would go out of your way to avoid them and the last couple, who I liked best of all, were cashed-up bogans who didn’t care what anyone thought of them, but weren’t on the page enough for my liking.

I’m think I’ll have to be in the mood to read another book by Liane Moriarty because a third story where everyone except me knows what is going on might be one too many…






The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty


I have no idea why I have never read anything by Australian author Liane Moriarty before coming across The Husband’s Secret. After reading a story about the author in The Age newspaper recently, then a review of the author’s most recent book, Truly-Madly-Guilty later that same week by FictionFan, I thought it was time I jumped on the band-wagon. And, wow, am I glad I did! You can check out FictionFan’s review using the link below, although I enjoyed The Husband’s Secret better than she enjoyed Truly-Madly-Guilty.

The main story in The Husband’s Secret starts with Cecilia finding a letter addressed to herself from her husband, with the instruction that she is to read it only in the event of his death. (By the way, if I found a letter with that instruction on it from my husband, I would open and read it straight away. Just saying). Cecilia doesn’t open the letter right away, but she does put it aside in a safe place.

Cecilia is happily married to John-Paul. They live on Sydney’s leafy North Shore (true description, real estate agents and people living there actually do use the term ‘leafy North Shore,’ even though it sounds a bit pretentious to the rest of us), with their three children. John-Paul must be quite successful at whatever he does, because at the beginning of the story he is in New York for work, and Cecilia doesn’t work outside of the home. She is one of those church-school mothers who volunteer for everything, and knows everything that is going on in the school and church community.

The next most important character in the story is Tess. Tess, her husband Will, and Tess’s cousin Felicity have a business together, and are constantly in each other’s pockets. Somehow, it comes as a surprise to Tess when Will and Felicity sit her down to tell her that they have fallen in love with each other. Nobly, they also tell her that they haven’t done anything about it yet, ie, slept together. (I would probably have broken both of their noses. So far in this review I’ve shown myself to be a sticky-beak, and not very forgiving. If this was my story, at this point I would be charged with assault, and the story would go in a different direction entirely). Tess, who is a less violent woman than me, packs her things and takes herself and her son Liam off to Tess’s mother’s home (on Sydney’s leafy North Shore), leaving Will and Felicity to get on with it.

The third main character in the story is Rachel, whose daughter Janie was murdered as a teenager. Rachel works in the office at the Catholic school, which is where Cecilia, Tess and Rachel’s lives start to overlap into each other’s when Tess enrols Liam into school.

I’m not going to discuss the plot any more, because The Husband’s Secret is a thriller and readers should get the chance to find out what happens for themselves. But I will say how much I love reading contemporary Australian books. I love reading about communities that are so familiar to me that they could be mine. I love wondering if the author knows the same people I do. I’ve been a school mum and done Canteen Duty, and made terrible Easter bonnets that have fallen apart before the school parade even started. I’ve avoided the President of the Parents and Citizens group so as not to get roped into volunteering for working on the school playground for three Saturdays in a row, I’ve been to Tupperware parties where someone got drunk and had to be driven home and I watch The Biggest Loser while eating chocolate and chips. I know these characters. So much of what I read is set in England or the United States, and while I love the sense of travelling somewhere through my reading, it is also satisfying to read a good story with a known setting and characters who could be my neighbours.

The story started a little slowly. Cecilia’s dithering about whether to open the letter or not was annoying. Some of the things that happen are a little predictable, but there were also a few surprises for me. By the middle of the book I was hooked and I ended up finishing it in one sitting. I’ll definitely be working my way through Liane Moriarty’s other books soon. And lastly, a newsflash to my husband, if you are reading this – don’t get any ideas…






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