Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
Two can keep a secret... if one of them is dead...
on 13 April 2016
I was drawn to this book on the basis that I enjoyed 'Gone Girl' and was led to understand that this was very like it in tone. My only advice to anyone thinking of reading this with a similar understanding would be - don't! This is not a psychological thriller; if anything it's much closer to chick-lit fiction in the vein of Jane Green or Cecelia Ahern, and as such I discovered amongst its pages nothing but disappointment.
First off, the back cover synopsis is incredibly misleading. We're led to believe the story is only about Cecilia, but in actuality it's told from the viewpoint of three women; Cecilia, Rachel and Tess. This makes for very confusing reading at times, as Moriarty insists on introducing a myriad of characters very early on, sometimes with little to no explanation about who they are or why they're there.
Cecilia is your a-typical middle-aged housewife, married to the successful John-Paul and mother to three 'beautiful' girls (dare they be anything else after all, in Cecilia's perfect world?). She's an incredibly successful Tupperware consultant (something I personally thought had died a death in the early '90s), a proud member of the school PTA, all round good Samaritan and generally annoying busybody. And even after she discovers a horrible truth about her husband, she still finds time for the Tupperware and gossip, despite the fact that her home life is becoming increasingly unstable.
Rachel, a secretary at the local primary school and nearing the age of retirement, is increasingly lonely after the death of her husband. She's also struggling to come to terms with the murder of her daughter almost 20 years ago, a crime for which she believes there may at last be a new lead, albeit based only on her own wildly irrational assumptions. And then her son makes an announcement which could see what's left of Rachel's world fall apart completely, although she does her level best to make it look like she doesn't give a damn (quite possibly because she doesn't).
Finally there's Tess, back in Sydney with her son and living at her mother's house, after her husband inexplicably decides he's in love with Tess's cousin (a conversation which is particularly trite in its execution). Apparently suffering from social anxiety (and a seeming inability to make any decision without first wondering what said cousin would do in her shoes), she wastes no time in hooking up with an old boyfriend, whilst all the while declaring how awful it all is and how uncomfortable she feels about the whole thing.
I'm still trying to understand how this book became so popular and earned all the attention it's received. I'm genuinely struggling to think of one thing I liked about it. None of the characters are appealing - my least favourite being the wet dish cloth that is Tess, although a close second would definitely be 'try hard' Cecelia - and apart from the revelation about Cecelia's husband and another (supposedly shocking, but actually disappointingly predictable) incident towards the end of the book, NOTHING happens. Tess spends the majority of her time going round and round in circles about her husband and his infidelity; Cecelia spends the majority of her time going round and round in circles about her husband's secret and what she should do about it; and Rachel spends the majority of her time being horrible to almost everyone on the basis that her daughter was murdered and is therefore justified in doing so.
The rest of the assembled cast are one-dimensional at best and I certainly never felt a connection with any of them. All the women seem to follow the rule that you're only good enough if you're slim, pretty, have impeccable taste in clothes and have a successful husband, whilst the men are only ever handsome, good at their jobs and/or athletic. Which made it hard to muster up any empathy or sympathy for any of them and their respective stories.
There's so much minutiae to wade through as well, which rather than add depth to the story or nuance to the characters personalities, is just a chore to get through. I confess to skipping quite a few pages, mainly out of boredom but also because I knew there was very little chance I'd miss anything that was vital to the overall storyline.
Moriarty's treatment of the ending, in particular the epilogue with its protracted explanation of the woulda, shoulda, coulda of everyone's lives if they'd made different choices, is unnecessary and does nothing to raise the reader's opinions of this, quite frankly, horrible group of people. If they were my neighbours, I'd move house and not give out my new address. None of them learn anything (about themselves or each other) and we're left believing that if Moriarty was in charge no one would be accountable for their actions especially if they were pretty, handsome, successful or a parent.
Ironically, I think Moriarty sums up this book in her own words on page 90 (of the paperback version) when she writes: "It was like being buried in an avalanche of detail. The myriad of tiny logistical manoeuvres that made up someone's life. It wasn't that it was dull. Although it was a little dull. It was mainly the sheer *quantity* of words that flowed so effortlessly…"
I certainly won't be rushing to read any more of Moriarty's work if this is anything to go by. Massively disappointed, especially given the hype it's received.