With the HBO adaption of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies dubbed “the most powerful television you will watch all year”, “a vision of female solidarity” and a “queasy, gorgeous show”, much has been made of the Aussie author’s penchant for storytelling and creating complex characters.
Now the series is over, you might be desperate to fill the void with more stories of female friendship and nuanced relationships.
Well, there’s good news: Moriarty has a wealth of work behind her that’s on par, if not better than, Big Little Lies.
Listen to Mia Freedman, Laura Brodnik and Jackie Lunn talk all things Big Little Lies here. Post continues after audio.
These are my top three (because apparently my opinion counts, according to… me):
The Husband’s Secret
If you’ve heard of Liane Moriarty, then chances are you’ve heard of this book. I’ll happily admit this recommendation is both predictable and unoriginal, but that’s why it needs be here.
The Husband’s Secret is a good place for newcomers to start. It was the first of Moriarty’s books to reach number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and for good reason.
This is the blurb:
How well do you know your husband?
Cecilia Fitzpatrick, devoted mother, successful Tupperware business owner and efficient P&C President, has found a letter from her husband.
"For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick, to be opened only in the event of my death."
But Cecilia's husband isn't dead, he's on a business trip. And when she questions him about it on the phone, Cecilia senses something she hasn't experienced before. John-Paul is lying.
What happens next changes Cecilia's formerly blissful suburban existence forever, and the consequences will be life-changing for the most unexpected people.
It's a beautiful tale anchored by the mystery of the husband's "secret" and saturated with flawed characters you can't help but love.
Truly Madly Guilty
Truly Madly Guilty is Moriarty's newest book, and follows a similar format to The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies. There's a big mystery of sorts at the end that keeps you so hooked it's almost exhausting trying to work out what the hell it even is.
One thing I loved about this book is its portrayal of a mental health condition that I have never, ever seen depicted in either a film, TV series or book. Hell, it's the first time I'd ever seen it taken seriously enough to warrant an entire storyline dedicated to it. Truly Madly Guilty was so popular on release it reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list in its first week of publication.
The blurb goes a little like this:
Clementine is haunted by regret. It was just a barbeque. They didn't even know their hosts that well, they were friends of friends. They could so easily have said no.
But she and her husband Sam said yes, and now they can never change what they did and didn't do that Sunday afternoon.
Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One playful dog. It's an ordinary weekend in the suburbs. What could possibly go wrong?
Marriage, sex, parenthood and friendship: Liane Moriarty takes these elements of our lives and shows us how guilt can expose the fault lines in any relationship, and it is not until we appreciate the fragility of life that we can truly value what we have.
Listen: The Book Club podcast reviews Big Little Lies. (Post continues after audio.)
Dianne Doherty wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald, "The chapters take us to the months, days, hours, and seconds even, before and after the incident. Moriarty is brilliant at her craft, all the time cranking up the suspense."
More than anything, Truly Madly Guilty gives remarkable insight into marriage: these aren't conventional romances but relationships with subtle complexities that are given the airtime they deserve.
What Alice Forgot
In comparison to Moriarty's more famous, and newer novels, What Alice Forgot is a relative underdog. A quiet achiever. But keep in mind, an underdog novel of Moriarty's is a success story by any other name; the book has been recommended by Oprah, no less.
This story has quite a different vibe to the two above; as a reader, your focus isn't centred on trying to crack a mystery with every chapter you inhale. There's suspense to it, no doubt, but it's not what makes you desperate to turn the page.
According to the blurb, it goes like this:
Alice Love is twenty-nine, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child.
So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny mums with really expensive clothes.
Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.
What Alice Forgot isn't as dark as Big Little Lies or The Husband's Secret, but that's not to say it won't keep you enthralled. It'll surprise you right to the last page.
What's your favourite Liane Moriarty book?