Review: Truly Madly Guilty

Posted on Mar 1 2017 - 12:00pm by Claire Herbaux
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Big Little Lies – the mini series is out on HBO. It is based on my favourite book by Liane Moriarty. Apparently Reese Witherspoon agrees, because she was the one wanting to adapt it for television. From the trailer I have seen, it seems like the over-the-top-but-genuine North Sydney parenting was turned into a superficial American version resembling the Housewives (if it is the Real ones or the Desperate ones, I can’t tell you, ask someone who has watched it).

It is time to turn back to some original Liane Moriarty… with Truly Madly Guilty.

In true Moriarty style, it teases you. The storyline is divided between the present day, and The Day of the Barbecue. Where It happened. Of course, we won’t know until quite far along in the story, what the day of the barbecue is about.

The story features Erika and her husband Oliver, both a little obsessive compulsive, for different reasons. But they found each other and understand each other. And then there is Clementine and her husband Sam, with their two daughters, Holly, four, and Ruby, two. They are easy going; Clementine is a harp player, the girls are sweet and charming, and there is an ongoing storyline of always misplacing items in the house!

And then there are Vid and Tiffany, Erika and Oliver’s next door neighbours. They like to entertain, much to old neighbour Harry’s disgust, and have a ten year-old daughter Dakota. I will admit, once in a while you will catch yourself making sure you remember all the names correctly.

Erika and Clementine have a complex relationship.

“Sam had been the first man she ever dated who immediately and instinctively grasped the complexities of her friendship with Erika. He’d never reacted with impatience or incomprehension; he’d never said, ‘I don’t get it, if you don’t like her, don’t hang out with her!’ He’d just accepted Erika as part of the Clementine package, as if she were a difficult sister.”

Since the barbecue, the situation has changed between the three families. The day of the barbecue has changed everyone. And this is where Liane Moriarty knows how to tease her readers: We know she is stringing us along, but we don’t mind, we enjoy it. We could just read through the chapters starting with The Day of the Barbecue, but no one would dare. The slow release of information in the past and the present weaves together the full picture; of the day, of the convoluted relations between the characters, but also of the personal past, which makes each person the way they are. She knows exactly how far she needs to go until we all believe in her story going down one path, just to make a turn at the last minute, when we think we have found the road ahead.

This time, I must say the aftermath was a little longer than expected. A key element of the story is Erika not remembering everything of that day and while the resolution was a revelation, the incident itself should, in my opinion, have been the main focus of the story, and maybe even be slightly closer to the end. But, as the title suggests, it is a story of guilt. Of eight people’s guilt around one incident. And only one seems not to be impacted. But who? Who is does not feel guilty of anything? And why?

I will let you find out.

Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty

ISBN: 1250069793; ISBN-13: 978-1250069795

First published 2016

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