October 1, 2011
Pan Macmillan Australia
Ellen o’Farrell is a hypnotherapist who spends her life trying to help other people be happy and get what they want from life. She prides herself on her ability to help others, especially when it comes to people’s emotions. And yet despite all this, Ellen is unlucky in love. All that changes when she meets Patrick, who just happens to have an obsessed ex-girlfriend who won’t stop stalking him. Rather than terrifying Ellen as this rightly should, Ellen feels that Saskia (Patrick’s ex-girlfriend) adds a further sense of intrigue and allure to the relationship. Increasingly, as the book goes on and Ellen’s carefully crafted life falls apart, we see Ellen continually identifying with Saskia.
From the moment I started reading this book, I was hooked. I could not read it quick enough, and found myself grumbling every time I had to put it down and go to work. All of which, I find kind of peculiar considering I bought this book without even reading the blurb on the back. The author is appearing at an event in my local community with a couple of other authors later on this year, and while I had read all the other authors books, I had never read anything by Liane Moriarty before. Since, finishing this book now, I find myself impatiently waiting the arrival of her previous books (that can’t come quick enough!).
To start with, I don’t think I have ever read a book like The Hypnotist’s Love Story before.
In terms of writing style, I can not fault Moriarty at all. The novel is overall well paced, the characters are engaging – to the point I found myself wanting to know more. The dialogue is realistic enough that I never found myself cringing internally and never found it fake. It’s setting (Sydney, Australia) is well grounded and the content matter of the story is not only intriguing, but dealt with well. And like all great novels and stories, long after finishing the book I found myself thinking back to the story and its characters and some of its central messages and issues.
For example, within the novel there is the question raised of when enough is simple enough. Saskia, broken hearted from when Patrick revealed to her that ‘it was over’ three years before the start of the novel, finds herself unable to move past their relationship to the point that she is reduced to stalking Patrick and his young son Jack just to feel a part of their lives. Through this action, and the characterisation of Ellen (whose had no luck in her romantic life to date) and Saskia, Moriarty explores society’s perception and ideals about how one should act post relationship fall out. In particular, the author delves into the notion and questions the foundations of why it is socially acceptable for one to mourn openly and for many years the loss of ones wife (Colleen; Jack’s mother who died not long after he was born), and yet it is not okay for Saskia to mourn the loss of the man she loves and has lived with for almost three years when he unexpectedly moves on. With all ties effectively cut immediately between herself and Patrick and Jack, Saskia can’t cope with the loss. A loss which is further inflicted by societies harsh double standards that require her to ‘get over it and move on.’ There’s a very poignant and pointed scene in which Saskia questions these practises and notions that is absolutely heart breaking and made me look at the whole situation from another angle.
When I started the novel, my experience and knowledge of hypnotist’s was simple some ‘new age’ business that mostly meant someone would end up pretending to a bird or something equally absurd and embarrassing. This, it turns out, is not necessarily the case. Given the nature of the novel (female stalker, and new age medicine/remedies and family issues) Moriarty deals with the subject matter extremely well. You never feel as though she’s shoving her views on the practice down your throat, and yet as you read you are conscious of the way in which you are re-evaluating the way you look at things (mainly hypnotistism). Interestingly enough, despite the title, the practise of Hypnotistism is not the focus of this book. Rather its the interactions of a set number of people and the concept of what makes a relationship not only a relationship , but how do you define it and make it work. It brings to light that nasty question of how many people is too many people in a relationship of any kind, while also exploring the many aspects and types of relationships (e.g. relationships between: man and wife/boyfriend and girlfriend; siblings; parents and children; friends; colleagues and the list goes on).
An absolutely breathtaking novel that is both intense and moving at times, while show casing a bit of everything within its love story. The crime and uncomfortable horror/thriller elements sort of remind me of S. J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep while never sacrificing the love story or characters for the more thriller-esque conventions
This review was originally posted on Goodreads on July 10, 2012. It has since been edited for spelling errors but can still be found in its entirety here: