Monday 22 October 2012

Book Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

'Imagine losing the most important ten years of your life ...

Alice is twenty-nine. She adores sleep, chocolate, and her ramshackle new house. She's newly engaged to the wonderful Nick and is pregnant with her first baby.
There's just one problem. All that was ten years ago ...

Alice has slipped in a step-aerobics class, hit her head and lost a decade. Now she's a grown-up, bossy mother of three in the middle of a nasty divorce and her beloved sister Elisabeth isn't speaking to her. This is her life but not as she knows it.

Clearly Alice has made some terrible mistakes. Just how much can happen in a decade? Can she ever get back to the woman she used to be?'

After reviewing Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story, I was inspired to go back and read her previous novel What Alice Forgot. This is the fourth book I’ve read as part of the AWW2012Challenge

I must admit that I found this book hard to read at the beginning. It annoyed me that the novel deals with such a serious topic in a light-hearted way. To me the characters seemed a little one-dimensional. Alice sustains a head injury that causes severe memory loss and yet everyone is so flippant about it. I didn’t like Alice all that much, mainly because I couldn’t quite get a handle on who she was.

But as the story progressed and Alice returns to her house and her life, I slowly started to understand her. The twenty-nine year old Alice is carefree and focused on love, but the way her family and friends talk about the thirty-nine year old Alice it becomes clear just how much motherhood and marriage has changed her. I was intrigued to see why, and how, someone could shift their perspective on life so drastically. By this time I was hooked and desperate to know how this story would work out.

I liked that this story made me think about who I used to be, as well as who I have become as I’ve grown up. Alice was reminded over the course of the story that it is important to grow up but also to hold on to that youthful view of the world. At times we need to be serious and mature, but we also need to relax and let go too. To just have fun and be present, rather than let ourselves get caught up in our day to day responsibilities.

The story also showed a genuine progression of a marriage – from the carefree loved-up days when it’s just the two of you, to the ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ days where the love you had can get lost in a sea of duties. Love changes. People change. Everything is just a phase. Sometimes there are wonderful phases, sometimes there are tough phases.

While reading I kept thinking of the adage ‘This too shall pass’. That’s what I consider to be the theme of this story – that memories (both good and bad) make up our lives, but really it is the present moment that is most important. We need to savour the good times. And during the bad times we need to remember that this too shall end and all will return to normal again at some point. This is life; the ups and the downs.

When I reviewed The Hypnotist’s Love Story, I thought the theme to that novel could be 'trust in life'. What Alice Forgot is certainly all about life as well. It seems Liane Moriarty likes to explore the complexities of life in her books and I know that is why I have enjoyed her writing. While What Alice Forgot starts out carefree it does become much more thought-provoking as the story progresses. In hindsight I see this is much the same as Alice herself and just goes to show that novels, like people, have room to be a multitude of shifting personalities.