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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

'Nine Perfect Strangers' by Liane Moriarty

From the BLURB: 

The retreat at health and wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages. 

Watching over them is the resort's director, a woman on a mission to reinvigorate their tired minds and bodies. These nine perfect strangers have no idea what is about to hit them. 

With her wit, compassion and uncanny understanding of human behaviour, Liane Moriarty explores the depth of connection that can be formed when people are thrown together in... unconventional circumstances. 

Okay - I went into this Liane Moriarty a *little* bit dubious, but I came out converted and all the better for having read it. 

Any hesitations I had were around the nine perspectives (there's actually more, but it works well) and because the whole 'wellness retreat' thriller-esque storyline had burnt me once with 'Fearless' by Fiona Higgins (which was *truly* awful, but thankfully 'Nine Perfect Strangers' is nothing like it). This latest from Liane Moriarty was another true joy and gem of a read; it's layered and complex, while also reading like a gossipy unravelling of human psyche and intimate relationships. I particularly loved the underpinnings of needing to choose your own happy-ending, and especially how that was characterised in the (sort of?) main protagonist of Frances, an older woman and once semi-famous romance author who has just been duped by an internet love scam. 

Frances is a bit of a conduit, I think, for Liane's experiences on the author circuit prior to becoming a NYT-bestselling author. So she has some delicious asides about gropey older male authors at writers festivals, bad reviews that claim her romance is anti-feminist for concluding with a happy ending, and the way she can't stand reading "literary" crime-thrillers without quotation marks and in which beautiful women either die or fawn over the grizzled older male detective. 

Ohhhhhhh, Liane - this is pure gold. And I think she has more than earned the right to have an author character get astutely persnickety about these things (also, can the sentence "unassuming mum from the suburbs" in relation to Liane just die already?) 

I also continue to adore how much Liane embraces Australian sensibilities. I've not ever read a US-version of her books, but I hope perfect observations like these remain; 

He loved the sound of the whipbird: that long, musical crack of the whip that was so much a part of the Australian landscape you had to leave the country to realise how much you missed it, how it settled your soul. 

Liane Moriarty continues to write at the top of her game, as a justifiable juggernaut of the publishing realm. That she's a genuinely lovely person, whip-smart author and keen observer of human interaction just makes her success that much sweeter ...


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