I couldn’t wait to read Liane Moriarty’s latest novel, Truly, Madly, Guilty as I’m a huge fan of her work and have been really happy to see her finally getting the media attention she deserves here in Australia (even though readers of her books have known for years what a huge talent she is). The moment it downloaded on my Kindle, I put the other book I was reading on hiatus and commenced.
Did I regret doing that? To be frank, yes, and more than a little. Truly, Madly Guilty, though good, was not the smack you in the face with recognition and wonder that her other novels have been. While in many ways it starts (as Moriarty’s books often do) with a close-knit cast of characters bound by either familial ties, personal history, neighbourhoods or professional bonds and, like Big Little Lies, has these people share a crisis, that’s where the comparison ends.
The crisis that unites these people isn’t made evident until halfway through the book. Until then, the reader is treated to both prolepses (flash forwards) and flashbacks to the day of the BBQ when IT all happened. We’re privy to both the innocence and naivety of people coming together with all their oh-so-important anxieties and foibles and then the impact the crisis has upon them personally, as couples, families and friends and the differing perspectives it gives them: on life, themselves and each other.
In some ways, this novel is Big Little Lies Lite. There’s no doubt Moriarty has a huge gift for pluming the depths of personal neuroses and what makes people and families tick or implode, but for some reason, for at least two-thirds of the novel, I didn’t actually connect with or care much about the characters. Such an alien feeling with one of her novels, where I’m usually heavily invested in at least the characters and entwined in the plot as well. The book dragged in parts and I almost gave up on it, but this was a Moriarty and you don’t put her aside for anything!
So, I didn’t. I persevered. But, I wanted the book to hurry up and finish so I could get back the one I’d abandoned. However, the last third of the book goes a long way for compensating for the plodding and rather bland pace of the first part. Suddenly, the tempo quickens, characters’ motivations are both exposed and explored and actions make sense. Most importantly, I felt empathy for the characters, even those I didn’t much like. Finally, I understood them.
In some ways, this was just the right conclusion, if a little too late, to make up for what was a slow starting novel. But I did end up feeling really satisfied and not nearly as disappointed as I feared I would be.
The writing is still lovely and there are some real laugh out loud and poignant moments, but overall, I have to say, this was an OK read, not like her other books, a sensational one.