I have read some of Liane Moriarty’s novels and particularly enjoyed her previous one Big Little Lies. Her latest, Truly Madly Deeply has some similarities – great characters looking at friendship, family and relationships, but this one is more of a slow burner. There is a significant event that happens around half way through the book. The lead up is flashbacks to ‘the day of the barbeque’, and what brought this group together and how they react to the incident.
Some have felt that it is too long and drawn out, but I like good character development and was taken in by them all, both the adults and children, with their foibles, insecurities and flaws. They are all given their perspective on what took place – ‘eyewitness accounts were notoriously unreliable because people thought they just pressed ‘rewind’ on the little recorder installed in their heads, when in fact they constructed their memories. They ‘developed their own narratives’’. And Moriarty does this for each of them.
Erika and Clementine have a complicated relationship. Clementine’s well-meaning do-gooder mother forced her daughter to play with Erika when they were young.
Erika is self-diagnosing, obsessive-compulsive, and in therapy for good reason. She had ‘been working her way through the first-year reading list for a psychological and behavioural sciences undergraduate degree at Cambridge. Just for interest’. She was thankful ‘she didn’t have a job like Clementine’s, where you needed to constantly draw upon the well of your own emotions. Work should be devoid of emotion. That was the joy of work’.
Clementine is a ‘musician, a creative person, an ‘artist’’. Mother to five-year-old Holly and two-year-old Ruby, she comes across as a bit flighty. ‘
As adults, their relationships with parents, particularly their mothers was interesting. For Erika she didn’t want to play ‘the game they’d played all those years, where they both pretended to be an ordinary mother and daughter having an ordinary conversation’.
Erika’s mother was a nurse, but at home was a hoarder of immense proportions. Erika said that was common. ‘They say it has something to do with them focusing on taking care of others so they don’t take care of themselves. … Or their children’.
Erika is married to Oliver, with no children but they take ‘an active, almost proprietary interest in Holly and Ruby. It was almost as if it were good for them, as if it were part of a systematic approach they were taking to being well-rounded, self-actualised people: We exercise regularly, we go to the theatre, we read the right novels, not just the Man Booker shortlist, but the Man Booker longlist, we see the right exhibitions and we take a real interest in international politics, social issues and our friends’ cute children’.
Oliver and Erika have dysfunctional families in common with no positive role models, so Erika embraced therapy so as not to repeat the pattern. Oliver keeps everything in order. ‘They were straight-down-the-line people. Their financial affairs were in scrupulous order. He and Erika would welcome a tax audit. Bring it on, they’d say to the tax office. Bring it on’.
Clementine is married to Sam a man of simple desires ‘ ‘a lower mortgage, a tidier house, another baby, ideally a son but he’d take another girl no problem at all, a big motherfucking boat if it were up for grabs, and more sex’. He has a job with flexible hours so he could be a hands-on dad. After the incident he does the typical male thing and tries to forget – ‘to stop the flashes of shameful memory flickering over and over in his head’. Clementine keeps ‘getting stuck in the same pointless ‘what if’ groove’’.
Sam had got Clementine and her relationship with Erika. They had a good relationship until the barbeque. ‘But now they just looked steadily at each other and then away again, as if levity were against the new rules for life where they trod so very carefully, where they checked and double-checked, where they knew better than to relax, even for a moment’.
Perky Tiffany and ‘muscles’ Vid, are neighbours to Erika and Oliver, with their ten-year-old Dakota who loved to fall into the world of a book. It is at their home that the barbeque is held. Grumpy neighbour Harry shadows the story.
I really like Moriarty’s writing and her take on people and the way they behave. It looks at the assumptions we make about people. We don’t always know their history, what goes on behind their public personas. This delves into the personalities of these people in a way that made me feel I really got to know them, and this is rare in a book these days.