Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Angst-ridden middle-class thirty-somethings…

🙂 🙂 😐

truly madly guiltyClementine and Erika have had an uneasy friendship most of their lives. They are closer than many sisters, but there are tensions bubbling beneath the surface. One day, they and their husbands, Sam and Oliver, are invited to a barbecue at the home of neighbours, Vid and Tiffany. Something happens that changes all their relationships and throws them into emotional turmoil…

…unfortunately, Moriarty decides not to tell the reader what that something is for roughly half the book. Talk about annoying! When every character in the book knows what happened and refers to it constantly, without mentioning what it actually was, it leads to contrived dialogue, silly hints, a desperate attempt to build tension using the clumsiest of devices. But with the effect it has on them all, you know it has to be something utterly traumatic and devastating, or else it’s going to be a huge anti-climax when the reveal finally comes. Oh dear! Well, it would have been traumatic and upsetting, yes, but not to anything like the extent foreshadowed. Not unless people really have lost the ability to deal with anything at all without going into major howling angst mode – which from all these domestic thrillers I’m actually beginning to believe.

But this isn’t really a domestic thriller, though it’s being marketed that way and the failed attempt to build tension suggests it’s going to be. It’s actually more of a thirty-somethings relationship book, with six extremely tedious and tiresomely middle-class people all getting themselves into a major tizz over what happened that day at the barbecue. Just to keep adding the annoyance on, Moriarty holds back all kinds of other bits of information for ages too. For example, we know Erika’s mother has some kind of problem, but we’re not told what till the book is long underway, so we get all kinds of oblique conversations skirting round the subject. I paraphrase, but not by much: “You ought to go see your mother!” “Oh, is it bad, then?” “Yes, worse than usual.” “Oh, but I told her I wouldn’t be going for another six weeks.” “But I think you must. It’s happening again!” Just tell us, for heaven’s sake!

Meantime, Vid’s daughter is upset about something she did that day, but we don’t know what. Erika is sure there’s something she’s forgotten about that day, so naturally we don’t know what. Sam blames Clementine for what happened that day… Ugh!

Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty

Enough! I loved Little Lies, but I’m afraid this one isn’t in the same league. It’s not actually bad – Moriarty’s readable writing style and occasional humour prevent that, and the characters ring true in their bland unremarkableness. But truthfully I couldn’t find anything much to recommend it. I spent most of the time thinking about giving up and flicking forward to find out what happened that day, and when I finally made it to the end I rather wished I had. Had we been told what happened that day and then been shown the lead-up and consequences, it would have been a perfectly acceptable, if tediously middle-class, bit of “women’s fiction” with all the usual angsting over children and parenting that comes with that. But a blurb calling it “electrifying” and the attempt to turn it into a suspense novel leave it in a kind of limbo where it doesn’t really succeed as either.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Penguin UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

52 thoughts on “Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

  1. Oh, sorry to hear this one wasn’t quite up to it for you, FictionFan. But I do know precisely what you mean about those buildups. If the reader has to wait too long to find out what happened, it leads to a big let-down when it happens – whatever ‘it’ is. Then the author has to either create a huge (and probably not credible) shock, or the reader is cranky. It is good to hear, though, that Moriarty’s writing style is still strong, and her characters realistic. That makes all the difference in the world.

    • It’s a pity, because I do like her writing, but I suspect Little Lies might have been the exception – mostly I do think she writes “women’s fiction” rather than crime and I think maybe the withholding of info was to try to keep her in the suspense market after the success of that one. But this time, it didn’t really work. However, as always, it’ll work better for some people than others… 🙂

  2. Argh, another thumbs-down selection! Knowing me, I’d have flipped to the end as soon as they started talking about “that day” because I can’t stand ambiguity. A mystery? Sure, I’ll read cover to cover, but trying to build tension by hoodwinking the reader isn’t playing fair. Thanks for warning us!

    • Yep, it hasn’t been a stellar summer. I think I’m reading too many review copies – I’ll be glad to get back to reading some established books that I’ve picked on the basis of other people’s reviews… always a bit more reliable than just going by blurbs. Yes, I think sometimes authors think just not telling the reader something is enough to build tension, but it’s not as easy as that, is it?

  3. These whole books revolve around a big reveal, which is inevitably going to disappoint when you’ve invested a couple of hours reading and desperately tried to work out what it was – unless it’s something really juicy…I do love it when you let rip at a book; it invariably makes me laugh 😺😺And that dialogue about the mother is SO stilted!

    • Yes, I don’t mind a big reveal if it comes as a surprise to the characters too – and if it’s good! But when the characters talk endlessly about the thing without saying what it actually is… grrrr!! Hahaha! I do get a bit grumpy, don’t I? Must work on being more objective… 😉

      • No, don’t! We enjoy your reviews just as they are! I’d echo Rose’s recommendation of The Slap – I read it not long after it came out and I thought it was pretty enjoyable; definitely worth a read.

        • Haha! Thank you! 😀 That’s interesting, because after Rose’s rec I looked it up on Amazon and it has an incredibly low ranking with about a million one star reviews, all saying it’s terrible and full of foul language and gratuitous sex! Are you two just plotting to get me to do another ranting review…??? 😉

    • Indeed there is! And funnily enough, in her last book Little Lies, she did it very well. But in this one – nope! Hah! Yes, I think the battery may need recharging…

  4. I’ve been wondering if I should read this author, seem to be the only person in Australia this week who hasn’t. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas might suit you better. Also based on an event at a BBQ, and the reader knows what from the title.

    • I absolutely loved Little Lies (aka Big Little Lies) so would highly recommend it. This one’s getting good reviews from lots of people too, but it’s also getting quite a few saying pretty much what I’m saying about it. Ah, I’ve remember hearing about The Slap when it came out – I’ll check it out! Thanks for the recommendation. 😀

  5. Another case of the review being better than the book. I don’t much like “women’s fiction” anyway so for me to read it, it has to be spectacularly good.

    • Yes, I wouldn’t have read it if I’d known it was really “women’s fiction” either – I’m sure that’s partly what caused my annoyance with it. Bunches of married couples angsting about the state of their middle-class marriages is not my kind of thing…

  6. I have never read Lianne Moriarty but I talk about them a lot as my partner loves them – or rather has loved them till this one. She listens to them on audiobook but the conversation on this one is pretty muted! Liked your ‘to the point’ review though!

    • Haha! Thank you – I do get a bit grumpy when a book disappoints me! Yes, I’ve only read one other – Little Lies – and I loved it. I’ve kind of gathered from other reviews that lots of people, including fans, are finding this one isn’t up to her usual standard. Oh, well, hopefully the next one…

  7. I’ve been waiting for your review of this one because I had a feeling your review would be along these lines. Like you I found the opening section irritating although I did warm to the book after the reveal eventually happened, however I totally agree that it was mid-marketed

    • ***MINI-SPOILER ALERT***

      Haha! I popped back over to look at your review after I’d written mine, and saw that although you enjoyed it more in the end we had some of the same issues with it. I found the second half better too, but the way she tidied up all the ends drove me crazy – couldn’t say why in my review for spoilers, but the thing with the other daughter, and the fostering (yeah, like social services would see her as suitable foster-parent material!), and the audition! Grrr! Oh well, hopefully she’ll be back on top form next time! 😀

  8. It’s always a shame when there’s a ‘big reveal’ in a book and it just doesn’t match up to anything that’s come before it in the novel. Especially if you’ve had to wait the majority of the book to find out! I really enjoyed reading your review 🙂

    • Thank you! 🙂 I know – and in this one it was as if she was trying to misdirect as to what kind of thing the reveal was going to be too. A pity, because there was a decent book in there somewhere, struggling to get out…

  9. Oh no! I love Liane Moriarty’s books, and Big Little Lies is one of my favorite reads so far this year. This is not the first bad review I’ve read of this book, and I was debating on purchasing it, but now I think I’ll wait. Bummer. Great review! 🙂

    • Thank you! 🙂 The only other one I’ve read is Big Little Lies and I loved it too! I’ve seen quite a few reviews saying this one isn’t up to her usual standard, so I’ll still backtrack and read one of her earlier books. This one isn’t awful – it’s just annoying… 😉

    • Thank you! 🙂 The only one I’ve read is Big Little Lies, and I loved that. That’s partly why this one felt disappointing – the comparison. But I’ve seen several reviews from people who’ve read more of her stuff saying this one isn’t as good as her usual, so I’ll still backtrack to read some of her earlier stuff…

    • Tragically I have a couple of 5 stars coming up – sorry! But on the upside there’s a 1 star on the way too. That’s if I ever get around to writing the reviews.

      Yup, he’s the man!! We’re doing great again this time, though I must admit I haven’t been watching much of it. Somehow it hasn’t grabbed me the way the London games did last time. So I’m not sure what my excuse is for having no posts prepared for this week – laziness, I suspect!

  10. We agree totally on this one. Too long, too drawn out & so many of the characters felt like cardboard cut outs.

    But it won’t stop me from working my way through Moriarty’s backlist! I just hope Big Little Lies wasn’t her peaking.

    • Yes, this one was a disappointment after Big Little Lies – I felt that maybe she was pushed into having a mystery element in this one because of the success of that one, but it really didn’t suit the story of this one. But, like you, I’ll be trying again – I’ve already got another of her’s on the Kindle…The Last Anniversary, I think.

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