There’s a reason you should write reviews the moment you’ve finished the book, because otherwise you’ll be sitting here faced with a blank page struggling to remember what the hell happened at that barbecue of doom anyway. But a trip home to the UK and dealing with two babies with jetlag (as well as my own, oh god never fly with babies) has meant this got pushed to the bottom of the queue. But I am determined to do this, damn it. And the three others. Oh help.
I’ve read a bunch of Liane Moriarty books over the years and enjoyed them immensely. They’re starting to get a little bit samey – stories told from multiple perspectives, a mystery to be uncovered, twists and turns – but I don’t mind that. Usually. Truly, Madly, Guilty, however, did test my patience. It’s the story of Sam and Clementine, mostly, although again other perspectives are shown, and Sam and Clementine don’t get to speak first. They attend a barbecue at Tiffany and Vid’s house. They don’t really know the hosts, they’re the next door neighbour’s of Clementine’s best friend, Erika. But their relationship is thorny and Clementine feels the need for a buffer, and Tiffany and Vid are good fun, so why not? Attending the barbecue becomes one of the biggest regrets of their lives. Something happens there that impacts them all, putting a strain on Clementine and Sam’s marriage and causing them all to re-evaluate their lives. It’s incredibly readable, because Moriarty is an excellent writer.
But it’s such a tease.
It felt like it took far too long to get to the reveal, with far too many knowing paragraphs that almost tell you but don’t, giving hints and enticing you to read further. It’s frustrating. And yes you can eventually work out most of it yourself from the clues that are dropped but still, it didn’t give me the same kind of enjoyment getting there that her other books have done. Another issue I had was the characters. I just didn’t like anyone all that much. I mean, by the end, sure, I was quite happily spending time with them, but while the mystery was still being teased none of them held my interest all that much. The ‘what happened?’ factor was much more compelling. In Moriarty’s other books I didn’t mind waiting for the reveal because I was happy to hang out with the people in the book, it could take its sweet time. But this was different. I think partly it’s that none of them seem to particularly like each other. Clementine and Erika have been friends since childhood, but it’s not a happy friendship, it’s very forced. Much of the book is just unhappy/traumatised people trying to get by after something awful happened to them, but not really wanting to deal with their issues head on.
Overall I did enjoy it as it’s very readable, and I think once it gets over itself a bit and lets you into its secret it’s much more fun to read. And there are some genuinely sad/moving moments. But I won’t be revisiting it in a hurry.