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Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty - Review

Friday, August 9, 2019

This was the choice for my book club this month, and I really wanted to read it, so although I can't go to the meeting in a couple of weeks I decided to read it anyway and email my book club with my thoughts, which people often do if they can't make the meeting. Caroline chose the book, and she and I have similar taste in books, I often like the ones she chooses. I have read The Husband's Secret by Liane, but nothing else by her.

So in this, nine people turn up at a health resort in the outback in Australia under the tutelage of Masha, who uses somewhat unorthodox methods to transform everyone's lives. She has two second-in-commands, Delilah and Yao.

The novel is told from the points of view of all nine guests, plus Masha, Yao, and Delilah. To begin with I found this a bit confusing but eventually I really liked it and thought it added a lot to the book.

The nine guests are:

1) Frances, who is mostly the main character. She's a romance writer, she's fifty-two, and she's just been rejected by her publisher and has had a review that has bruised her ego a bit
2) Carmel, a mum of four whose husband has left her and whose confidence has nose-dived
3) Lars, a very pretty man aged thirty-five, whose partner wants to have a baby, but Lars isn't sure
4) Ben, a young man with a yellow Lamborghini who, along with his wife, has won 22 million dollars on the lottery
5) Jessica, Ben's wife, who is somewhat of a fitness guru and who has had a lot of plastic surgery
6) Tony, an ex sportsman who is just feeling a bit lonely and unfit
7) Napoleon (really), a man who, along with his wife and daughter, is spending the anniversary of his son's suicide at the retreat
8) Heather, Napoleon's wife, who is harbouring guilt about the death of her son, and,
9) Zoe, their daughter, grieving the death of her brother.

Upon arrival at the resort, Masha insists on five days of silence, and everyone has one to one counselling with her.

So until about halfway through the novel, that's that. The reader learns more about each character, and about what motivates them. I was convinced it would carry on like that to the end, with each character learning more about themselves and undergoing some kind of transformation, when the novel goes totally off-piste. I won't give any spoilers, but I still say that I didn't see it coming, and I loved it. I loved what happened after that, I just couldn't see how it was going to end. This was a compulsive read and I was really gripped. I really liked Frances and most of the other characters. The ones that were annoying are meant to be, I think. I really enjoyed the book, it kept me guessing and I think it was really well-crafted.

I'll trigger warn for suicide and discussion thereof. You may know that I lost my dad to suicide when I was just 24, so it's something close to my heart and I think in this novel it is written about really well. Liane says in the acknowledgements that she read No Time To Say Goodbye, which is a book by a survivor of suicide for survivors of suicide, and I think it shows. I read the book myself back in 2008 and found it really helpful. I thought that what Napoleon, Heather, and Zoe go through was extremely real, really well written, and done really sensitively. They definitely weren't to blame for Zach's suicide and I really hope that comes through in the book.

I'm giving this eight out of ten.

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