Truly, Madly Guilty started out feeling like quite a disappointment after Big Little Lies and if you’re looking for a lot of suspense or a thriller you’d better keep looking. On the other hand it’s quite good if you could also be interested in a book about relationships amongst married people, their friends and mothers. And there are several surprises toward the end – the result of the suspense. They’re good, too – unexpected. Moriarity is very talented at building suspense, but then she seemed to get way-laid in the details of life – don’t worry about it – keep reading.
The themes concern family and relationships, but the idea of guilt is huge – who is guilty and for what in this bunch of somewhat messy but realistic actions and interactions and relationships amongst characters who do not have completely well-balanced personalities (“Madly Guilty”). Because of the rest of the story I’m rating this as contemporary fiction rather than as suspense. As true suspense it might get a rating of a B- or a C.
The narrative follows three married couples before and after a backyard barbecue at which something happened, but what happened exactly is an unknown until about midway and then the consequences are explored and some more information about that event is revealed as the story continues. Good stuff after I got into it. Because Moriarity is also very skilled at developing full characters.
Truly Madly Guilty
by Liane Moriarity
2016 / 432 pages
read by Caroline Lee 17h 27m
rating: 8 / contemporary fiction
Clementine, a professional cello player, is married to Sam a “retired” businessman who is more caretaker of the children. These two are very married, but not happily at this point. They have two children, Holly who is a rather precocious 6-year old and Ruby who at about age 2 1/2 is still in diapers.
Erika grew up with Clementine and they were good friends at Clementine’s mother’s insistence. She’s become an anxiety-ridden, pill-popping woman who looks out for her mother who is a hoarder – “like on TV.” And she’s married to Oliver who is devoted to her and really wants a child but Erika never has to this point.
Tiffany and Vid – These are Erika’s neighbors and Vid has seen Clementine play her cello. Tiffany is very sexy and Vid is charismatic. They live in a large lovely home and it they are comparatively quite well off, although Vid is an electrician – perhaps a contractor. Erika and Vid give a barbecue and invite Erica and Oliver and Vid wants Clementine and Sam there. This couple has one child, Dakota age 10.
Everyone has secrets – except perhaps, Vid.
So Vid and Tiffany invite Erika and Oliver to a barbecue and also request they invite Clementine and Sam. This event is the focal point of the whole story, although parts of the narrative takes place before the event, other parts take place the day of the event, and still other parts take place at various times after the event. These parts alternate until they catch up with each other. Finally the event occurs about 1/2 way through the novel. Then the sections alternate between before after and during the event.
If you’re looking for suspense the book is going to be very long and boring – these are people with problems which are not exactly earth-shattering or even terribly strange. Normal people with normal problems living in normal circumstances. But something happens on “The Day of the Barbecue” and then we get the aftermath. And then the surprise.
The women have relationship issues with mothers and each other as well as with their husbands. Clementine is basically a nice person because her mother has trained her to be that. And Erika is needy and that’s the basis of the relationship with Clementine. Tiffany is the newcomer and she and Vid might be the most normal – although they’re not.
I was really expecting suspense like Big Little Lies, but this is a different book. This is more along the lines of The Slap by Alex Dimitriades but again, a different story.
If you’re looking for an exploration of relationships under pressure this might be the book for you. I started enjoying the narrative about 1/3 of the way through (maybe 150 pages?) – and it’s a long book with a slow reader who tries her best to add some suspense. At about the half-way mark (the actual barbecue) the relationships became more important to me than the suspense, but I really wanted to know how it all ended and there is still some very slow but sure suspense building because there is an ending.
Fwiw, the narrator’s voice is grating at first and it was very difficult to distinguish between Clementine and Erika. ALso difficult to distinguish between Holly (the 6-year old) and Sam, her father, Clementine’s husband. I got used to the voice in general but had to listen carefully to know which character was speaking.
Becky, I too really enjoyed Big Little Lies (the book and miniseries). I really disliked Liane Moriarty’s book The Husband’s Secret. The things you write here that annoyed you with this book were very present in that on as well. I will definitely be avoiding this book!
It took me a long time to get into it. I was okay with the way it ended but had I not been reading it for a group I likely would have quit. There were a couple of surprises at the end.