Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Title: What Alice Forgot

Author: Liane Moriarty

Published: Penguin June 2010

Sypnosis: Remember the woman you used to be … Alice is twenty-nine. She is whimsical, optimistic and adores sleep, chocolate, her ramshackle new house and her wonderful husband Nick. What’s more, she’s looking forward to the birth of the ‘Sultana’ – her first baby. But now Alice has slipped and hit her head in her step-aerobics class and everyone’s telling her she’s misplaced the last ten years of her life.  In fact, it would seem that Alice is actually thirty-nine and now she loves schedules, expensive lingerie, caffeine and manicures. She has three children and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick. In fact, he looks at her like she’s his worst enemy. What’s more, her beloved sister Elisabeth isn’t speaking to her either. And who is this ‘Gina’everyone is so carefully trying not to mention?  Alice isn’t sure that she likes life ten years on. Every photo is another memory she doesn’t have and nothing makes sense. Just how much can happen in a decade? Has she really lost her lovely husband for ever?:

Status: Read on March 27, 2011

My Thoughts:

Alice swims back into consciousness after a fall in her aerobic step class. She is worried about the baby she is carrying, at age 29, but in 1998, she is content in her marriage, happy with her life and can’t really imagine anything going wrong. Except something doesn’t seem quite right, her stomach is flat, her husband won’t answer the phone and she can’t imagine what she was doing in an exercise class in the first place. She is stunned to discover it is 2008, amnesia has robbed her of her memories of the last ten years. Alice’s much anticipated baby is 9 years old and has been joined by two siblings, she is in the middle of a bitter divorce and can’t remember any of it.
Alice’s struggle to reconcile her 29 year old mind set with her 39 year old self resonates with with me and I think would do so with many women. We have a vision when we first get married and start a family which rarely includes yelling your mother’s well worn phrases at your children, juggling the overflow of bills and bickering with your much loved husband over the emptying the garbage bins ten years later. I admit, a time or three I’ve stopped and wondered how on earth I got here.
Most of the time change happens when you aren’t paying attention, little everyday things begin to shape you in new ways, every minor either conscious or unconscious decision leading to another. This is the driving theme behind this thought provoking book, and is explored through Alice’s amnesia, her sister’s diary entries and her ‘grandmothers’ blog.
Alice discovers that she can barely comprehend the person her family and friends recognise her as in 2008. She is bewildered by the path her life has taken and struggles with becoming an instant mother of three unfamiliar children and is heartbroken by her shattered marriage. The Alice of 1998 is a likeable spirit whereas the Alice of 2008 seems to be a brittle woman. Piecing together the events of the last ten years to show where things went wrong is a subtle process and Moriarty is careful to examine them from several perspectives.
Elisabeth’s story is told in the form of journal entries for her therapist. Much of the last ten years for her has been defined by infertility issues, an obsession that has prevented her from moving forward in her life. Alice’s amnesia forces her sister to examine her own life and come to some surprising conclusions.
Frannie’s blog entries, and the information we learn about her, provides an interesting contrast to Alice’s and Elisabeth’s story. Her posts explore the theme of acceptance, of a life lived and choices made but while Fran is thinking her life is over, there are still choices to be made.
The epilogue is perhaps a bit twee but I surprised myself by being desperate for a happy ending for Alice and literally breathed a sigh of relief. I had become invested in her story, perhaps because of some parallels to my own life.
What Alice Forgot is a compelling read which will resonate with women who are not sure quite how they ended up in the life they are living. I feel that the style of writing gives the impression of a lighthearted chic lit novel, but disguises a book with surprising intensity, and the reader’s experience of it will likely be determined by their own circumstances. Entertaining, beautiful and poignant, I couldn’t out What Alice Forgot down.

@ Goodreads

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 15:07:19

    Oh, I’m glad you enjoyed this. 🙂 I’m so pleased that I discovered Moriarty earlier this year. She’s excellent and getting into the minds of her characters, and writes so simply but so incisively. I also loved her book The Last Anniversary–if you get a chance to pick it up, I do recommend it!

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  2. Marg
    Apr 01, 2011 @ 15:10:05

    This sounds like an interesting read, especially from the aspect of “resonate with women who are not sure quite how they ended up in the life they are living” – pretty sure that is most of it! I certainly am not living the life that a rather naive teenager thought she would be living!

    Thanks for the post, and for your participation in Aussie Author Month!

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  3. Trackback: Round-up of Aussie Author Month – Week 0.5 – Book Thingo
  4. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Apr 07, 2011 @ 09:06:34

    My pleasure, Marg 🙂

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