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The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

Redesign_9780425260937_HypnotistsLo_cover.inddThis is another wonderful novel from the fantastic imagination of Liane Moriarty. She’s fast becoming my go-to author when I want a lighter, but beautifully written and thought-provoking read. The lightness here is not meant to be derogatory or infer “light-weight”. On the contrary, it’s not about content or style as Moriarty often deals with difficult topics and doesn’t hesitate in exploring the flaws and weaknesses of human nature and in wonderful prose. Rather, it refers to Moriarty’s deftness as an author and the fact she has what I can only describe as a light touch.

The Hypnostist’s Love Story is no exception. It’s a tale about a young woman named Ellen who has her own hypnotherapy business, helping people overcome addictions, fears and irrational behaviours. When she meets widower and single dad, Patrick, through an online dating service, it seems she’s met the perfect man. Even his son is adorable and both he and Patrick love her. But Patrick comes with more baggage than a dead and beloved wife and her family. Patrick also has a stalker, his ex-girlfriend, Saskia.

Instead of being concerned about what Saskia signifies, especially when she starts turning up at the most inconvenient times and impacting upon the growing relationship she has with Patrick, Ellen is intrigued by Saskia’s obsession and inability to let go. When Saskia starts stalking her as well, Ellen knows she should be afraid, but she’s more curious than anything.

But curiousity is not necessarily a healthy response either – not where grief, jealousy and obsession are involved…and not only Saskia’s…

This is a brilliant and very gratifying book about relationships – personal, professional and familial and all the complex emotions, choices and responses to others we make as we stumble through life, love and loss.

What makes this novel particularly fascinating is Moriarty tells it not only from Ellen’s point of view and through her, Patrick’s, exploring the tension, fear and anxieties being the victim of a stalker can arouse – how damaging it can be – but from Saskia’s as well. This is quite unexpected and though every part of you wants to loathe Saskia, it’s kudos to Moriarty that the reader develops sympathy for her, even though we recoil at her actions. The reader learns about her relationship with Patrick and what led to their break-up. We slowly come to understand if not sympathise with Saskia and her odd and, frankly, inappropriate behaviours – how she cannot stop herself. It doesn’t change the nature of them and how wrong and detrimental they are, but it does put the reader in the stalker’s shoes for a while and allows empathy to flourish.

A really gratifying read that is beautifully and lightly (that word again) told, even though some of the themes are heavy. Having read all Moriarty’s books now, I need her to write another one… stat!

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