Truly Madly Guilty
by Liane Moriarty
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Publishing Date: 28th July 2016
Source: Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 480
Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
The electrifying new novel from the international bestselling author, Liane Moriarty
Despite their differences, Erika and Clementine have been best friends since they were children. So when Erika needs help, Clementine should be the obvious person to turn to. Or so you’d think.
For Clementine, as a mother of a two desperately trying to practise for the audition of a lifetime, the last thing she needs is Erika asking for something, again.
But the barbecue should be the perfect way to forget their problems for a while. Especially when their hosts, Vid and Tiffany, are only too happy to distract them.
Which is how it all spirals out of control…
Liane Moriarty has mesmerized me with her writing and ability to tell incredible, down – to – earth, realistic and full of twists and secrets stories. This time, the synopsis to „Truly Madly Guilty” has truly knocked me off my chair but let’s be honest – I’d read Liane Moriarty’s book no matter what the blurb says. Her sharp imagination, realistic dialogues and eclectic groups of characters keep me glued to the pages and pull me completely in to the stories. With this book I was expecting secrets, lies, feeling guilt and surprises, and I certainly got it all. This story focuses on a small group of characters who have all been affected by a very significant and dramatic event, and it tells us how all of the characters reacted, responded, felt after this incident. It is really a kind of art to write in this way, to reveal so much, yet not reveal too much and I truly admire the author for this. She gives us a story, characters that at the first sight seem so normal, and then she starts to reveal the secrets and lies, to strip away all the layers and slowly showing us the real faces and characters.
Even with all the digressions and jumping between past and present and changing of the point of view, I settled for the story quickly and I didn’t have any problems to follow the stream of events and characters. Liane Moriarty has a great talent to describe her characters in very detailed, recognisable way and I quickly felt as the part of the characters’ world and really, I felt like a fly on the wall, having insight into their deepest and most hidden feelings and emotions and being able to see all of their points of view. She also brilliantly captures the dynamics between the couples which makes the reading even more interesting and quicker and I liked how, thanks to the switching of times and characters’, we are allowed to collect the pieces of the puzzle and try to glue them together.
The story starts of course deliberately mentioning that something happened at the barbecue that took place several weeks before – we know that something happened between the two friends Clementine and Erika and their families, and the narration jumps between the characters and the day of the barbecue and the present. Nevertheless, I didn’t have any problems with all this jumping and changing the points of view and I felt incredible curiosity about what’s happened. However, this book was a very slow burner and I think there is the rub. After reading Liane Moriarty’s two previous novels, „The Husband’s Secret” and „Little Lies” and adoring those books immensely, admiring the writing style and the way the author built the suspense and tension, I kind of knew what to expect – a very slow unravelling of the secret that is mentioned at the beginning of the story. However, this time, it took much too much time for my liking to reveal what happened and the tension built around this secret made me expect something very incredible, surprising, unusual but I was a little disappointed, and if I were a new reader I could feel confused. But in the end I think that what happened at the barbecue was not so important in comparison to how it affected the people involved and how it changed them.
To make the story more interesting, the author introduces us to the private lives and past of the three couples. If they are linked with the main plot – line, I am not sure, but they for sure add a lot to it. I also think that it was a great test for the reader’s patience However, I found the stories really interesting and they were a nice addition and interjection to the main story, because we have a whole range of events and pasts. We have a cellist and pole dancer, troubled marriages, forced relationships and friendships, mental problems and fertility problems, trust, hate and mixed feelings, and the author has managed to put together an incredible story – a little on the slow side but nevertheless a captivating, hooking story with thousands of secrets, twists and turns and easy to follow. The language of the characters, the way they acted felt so very realistic and relatable and I didn’t have any problems to get into their story. However, characters is the other story here, as they were not all truly likeable – but do they need to be likeable for the story to be captivating? I think them being so full of flaws only made them more realistic and relatable and more than once I found myself thinking, oh my, how true their words and thoughts are. The friendship between Erika and Clementine was so brilliantly captured, full of tension and understatements and hidden emotions and I was really in awe at how well the author „does” the feelings here, the feelings of resentment and… I’m not sure what it was. Duty? Responsibility? Guilt? Jealousy? Liane Moriarty can incredibly well write about human nature. It is as if she sits in every characters’ head and she makes them truly convincing and realistic. The characters were full of flaws, imperfect. They kept secrets from each other, and their lives were far away from perfect. They were more than normal people: Clementine dreaming of joining an orchestra and finding that practising is not so easy with two young children; Erika’s trauma of childhood leaving incredible impact on her adult life; Tiffany’s secret past. The friendship between Clementine and Erika I’d call toxic and I found Erika almost neurotic, and even though learning about her past didn’t change my feelings towards her – I couldn’t warm to her, I couldn’t feel relaxed in her company, she was always so uptight and correct. Yes, I understood where she was coming from and I felt sorry for her but for me she stayed the bitter one, and I preferred Clementine much more. I think it’s because I could relate to her more than to Erika.
The characters and dialogues are sharp and true to life and there is a depth to the story, and it has a hidden message as well. It is raw, it is gritty and it doesn’t have a lot of humour, but it truly is a quick read, even though it is a rather long book and sometimes it drags on – I just felt so immersed in the characters’ lives that I didn’t want to leave for a single second. Even after the unlucky events at the barbecue were revealed, there were still many layers to be unveiled and I couldn’t wait to see what’s hidden under all of them. Even though the revelation wasn’t as shocking, the rest of the book made up for it, as really, what happened at the barbecue is only a small part of the complex, multi – layered story. „Truly Madly Guilty” was, as usual, a thought – provoking, tense read and even though it had some slow moments, I truly enjoyed it and I am already waiting for Ms Moriarty’s next release. Highly recommended!