I actually hadn’t heard about Liane Moriarty‘s novels until I started blogging last summer, but once I started to follow book blogs and keep up with popular titles, I started to hear her name everywhere. Her novels typically follow the same formula, with one major secret or twist at the heart of the novel’s plot, a cast of colorful characters whose lives intertwine in unexpected ways, and a pace which takes the reader from one small revelation to the next, until you get to the big reveal that brings all the previous smaller pieces of evidence together. Despite this formulaic basis, I’ve found the novels to be actually pretty different from each other thanks to the wide range of characters and central plot themes.
I’ve read 5 out of the 7 novels Moriarty has published to date, so I thought it was time to share my reviews of them with you. The novels are listed in order of preference. My definite favorite is Big Little Lies, and I’m really excited for the premiere of the series version starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in February on HBO. I put The Husband’s Secret last, which may surprise some people, as it’s definitely received many a rave review. I really didn’t like it however, I think also not helped by the very whiny sounding audiobook narrator that was picked for the novel.
The two novels of Moriarty’s that are not listed – What Alice Forgot and The Hypnotist’s Love Story – are definitely on my short-term TBR list. I actually have What Alice Forgot in paperback, but I just wasn’t able to get to in time for this post. I’ll be publishing individual reviews of them and linking back to this Author Spotlight so that eventually I’ll have reviewed Moriarty’s entire opus to date.
Big Little Lies
Published: July 29th 2014
I had a hard time picking between Big Little Lies and Three Wishes as my favorite Moriarty novel, which is interesting because each one has 3 female protagonists who are very similar but also very different from each other. In Big Little Lies, outspoken Madeline and naturally gorgeous Celeste are joined in their friend circle by new mom Jane when their children all start attending the same kindergarten. As the women grow closer, the secrets that two of them are hiding are slowly revealed and the tangles that connect their lives come to light.
I loved the structure of the novel, which starts with the revelation that there has been a murder during a school fundraiser which actually occurs at the end of the novel’s plot. The chapters in the novel provide flashbacks to the events that led up to this murder interspersed with police interrogations of the various parents who were in attendance. The reader is left guessing until the very end who both the murderer and the victim are. Though I guessed one of the major twists in the novel ahead of time, I was still surprised by the ending. I’m really excited that this is being turned into a series because it’s deliciously salacious and scandalous, while also dealing with serious topics like domestic abuse and date rape.
Published: May 24th 2005
Three Wishes was a close second favorite to Big Little Lies. It’s actually Moriarty’s first completed novel, but it feels just as complex and fully formed as her later works. It’s the story of three women in their thirties who are triplets and have very different personality. Lyn is happily married, hype-organized and runs her own business, but may be wound a bit too tight for her own good. Cat is struggling with changes in her love life that are bringing into question whether she’ll be able to fulfill her dream of becoming a mother. Gemma is so free-spirited she’s unable to hold down a long-term relationship, but she may have met someone to be with for the long haul.
I loved how different each sister was from the others not only in her personality but also in her life story. I related to each of the three due to different aspects of their lives, from Lyn’s Type A personality to Cat’s desire to have a family, and even Gemma’s fear of commitment. The plot of the novel had an unexpected twist at every corner, and I felt the writing really made the characters and their emotions realistic. The ending is a feel good one for each of the sisters, which is nice after some of the drama they go through. I listened to Three Wishes on audiobook and it had the same narrator as The Last Anniversary (Heather Wilds), which I liked much better than the new narrator they picked for The Husband’s Secret (Caroline Lee), so if you read the latter I suggest you do so in print format.
The Last Anniversary
Published: June 24th 2014
The Last Anniversary revolves around a family that lives on an island off the coast of Sydney called Scribbly Gum Island. This island was the site of the mysterious disappearance many years before of Alice and Jack Munro, a married couple who left their infant daughter Enigma (known as the Munro baby) behind. Enigma was then adopted by sisters Connie and Rose, who are now elderly and making a good living by giving tourists tours of Alice and Jack’s house, left untouched since their disappearance.
When Connie passes, it turns out she’s decided to leave her house on Scribbly Gum Island to Sophie Honeywell, her nephew Thomas Gordon’s former girlfriend. Though Thomas has now remarried, his aunt Connie never forgot Sophie and decided that she was the perfect person to take her place on the island. The Munro baby mystery is at the heart of the novel, but so are different love triangles that form between family members and outsiders. It’s definitely a quieter novel with a less explosive ending than some of Moriarty’s others, but I really appreciated that it included an older cast of characters, including several ‘little old ladies’ and a middle-aged housewife who is in the process of regaining her figure through Weight Watchers. Despite the esoteric mystery at the center of the novel, its cast felt supremely relatable, and the beautiful natural setting of the island added a picturesque element to the writing.
Truly Madly Guilty
Published: July 26th 2016
In Truly Madly Guilty, happy couple and parents of two Clementine and Sam join their longtime friends Erika and Oliver at a barbecue at their neighbors’ Tiffany and Vid’s house. Something happens at this barbecue that has significant repercussions in the lives of all three couples, and that will only be revealed at the end of the novel.
In the same way as in Big Little Lies, the reader finds out at the beginning of the novel at an incident has occurred at the barbecue, but the novel itself covers the weeks that led up to the barbecue, building suspense as you get closer to the actual moment of the mysterious incident. I think I didn’t like Truly Madly Guilty as much as Big Little Lies, despite their similar structure, because the characters just didn’t feel as vibrant or interesting. The plot twists were also not as plentiful, and there was something not very likable about the primary character, Clementine. All of Moriarty’s characters are flawed, but I think I respond better to the ones that are less whiny about their shortcomings than others. If you’re looking to read your first Moriarty book I’d skip this one and leave it for later.
The Husband’s Secret
Published: July 30th 3013
The premise of The Husband’s Secret has all the makings of a captivating Moriarty book. Middle-aged mother of three Cecilia finds a letter written by her husband that is labeled as to be opened only in the case of his death. He’s away on a business trip, and when she calls to ask him about the letter, he tells her it’s no big deal but please to not open it. Of course, this answer significantly piques her interest. The mystery that is central to the novel revolves around this letter, and also involves other characters in the novel, who, in true Moriarty style, seem initially not connected to Cecilia and her family.
I think one of the things that ruined this novel for me was the narrator (Caroline Lee), which, as I’ve mentioned above, was a different one than the one chosen for Three Wishes and The Last Anniversary. She really over-exaggerated the narration and sounded very whiny, especially when delivering Cecilia’s inner dialogue. It didn’t help that Cecilia’s character was supremely whiny already in essence. Cecilia asks herself question after unanswerable question in internal monologue after internal monologue about what she should do with regards to the mysterious letter. She is also extremely critical of herself and others inside her own mind. No one is immune from self-critical thoughts or even being over-judgmental of others in the safety of our own heads, but the extent to which Cecilia’s character ruminated over her and other’s failings didn’t seem believable. Also, it was just supremely annoying to listen to. The mystery and plot twists were nearly surprising enough to make up for it.
About The Author (see her website)
Liane Moriarty is an Australian author who has sold more than six million copies of her novels worldwide. She has written seven novels including Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty. She was the first Australian author to have a novel debut at #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list with Big Little Lies. The novel is also being turned into a TV series starring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley, and set to premiere on HBO on February 19th, 2017.
Other Books By Liane Moriarty
The Hypnotist’s Love Story
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
Ellen O’Farrell is a professional hypnotherapist who works out of the eccentric beachfront home she inherited from her grandparents. When she meets Patrick, she’s optimistic. He’s attractive, single, employed, and best of all, he seems to like her back. Then comes that dreaded moment: He thinks they should have a talk. Braced for the worst, Ellen is pleasantly surprised. It turns out that Patrick’s ex-girlfriend is stalking him. Ellen thinks, Actually, that’s kind of interesting. She’s dating someone worth stalking. She’s intrigued by the woman’s motives. In fact, she’d even love to meet her. Ellen doesn’t know it, but she already has.
What Alice Forgot
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.
Have you read any of Liane Moriarty’s novels? What did you think and do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comments.
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