Long lost Reviews (LLR) is a monthly featured hosted by Ally @ Ally’s Appraisals where bloggers are encouraged to tackle their review backlog with book reviews that have been sitting there for a long time. Reviews can range from in-depth analyses to one sentence statements with no pressure applied. To learn more and see participating blogs visit Ally’s blog here.
Published: 6th November 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Pages: 464 or 19 hours (audio)
Format: Audiobook purchased via Audible
RRP: $53.17 for the audible audiobook without a subscription. $16.45 with the subscription
Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out…
Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.
Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?
It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.
I’ve been umming and ahhing about posting this review for the longest time. Every time I sat down to write it, I would immediately stand back up and walk away from the computer… but here we are. Reviewing Nine Perfect Strangers for Long Lost Reviews is probably a bit of a cop-out, as the book is not even twelve months old yet, but it did release in November of 2018, so I’m running with it.
Nine Perfect Strangers is the story of … well, nine strangers (I know how odd), who meet for the first time at a very exclusive and upmarket wellness retreat, Tranquillum House. They are expecting two weeks (I think) of remote, unique experiences that will enlighten and enrich their lives spirituality, mentality and physically. Instead, the nine strangers find themselves walking into the most bizarre and unpredictable situation, that I’m sure if they were real, would give you nightmares for the rest of your life.
Before I jump into an extremely long review, I’m going to preface this review by saying Nine Perfect Strangers is a book that readers either love or hate. There is no middle ground. I’ve seen people gush over it and people tear it to shreds. As it turns out, this book was not for me.
I’ve been reading Liane Moriarty’s books all my adult (and even a bit of my teen) reading life. I read her books in high school and new when this one was announced that I had to purchase it straight away because it would be glorious. What I wasn’t expecting was a gigantic brick (nothing against long books in general, but this book is BIG)) coming in at 454 pages. The book sat on my nightstand for months as I balanced ARC’s and life, so I purchased the audiobook from Audible as well thinking well I’d get to experience the book quicker … I should have stuck with the physical copy.
The audiobook for this book is a whopping nineteen hours long and it’s narrated by Caroline Lee. And this is where things start to get bad for me. I’m a religious book finisher (not sure if that’s a thing, but I’m making it a thing). To date, there have only ever been two books I have not DNF’ed (did not finish); sometimes this means I will stick with a book for months, or even years until its read (meanwhile reading a host of other things in between). Which brings me to my point, I struggled to finish Nine Perfect Strangers. I stuck with it, and have read the entire book, but I went weeks, borderline months without listening to it … because I was bored.
Moriarty has gone to great lengths to create an eccentric mix of characters from all walks of life in Nine Perfect Strangers. There is Frances – struggling author whose just been catfished by her online lover; Jessica and Ben – a couple who won the lottery but effectively destroyed their relationship; Heather, Napoleon and Zoe – a family with dark secrets, grieving the loss of their son/brother; Tony – ex sport star with ill health; Carmel – a divorced mother, corporate ladder figure who has lost her way; Lars – a seedy lawyer type who offers everyone his services; Yao – an ex-paramedic and now the ‘medical guru’ of Tanquillam House; Marsha – a Russian divorcee, ex-corporate ladder head whose lifestyle almost killed her and the owner and creative founder of Tranquilliam House. But none felt as polished or well-rounded/developed as some of her previous characters. Each character was a bit lukewarm, almost wary of their own reception
I didn’t connect with any of them.
Because of this, Nine Perfect Strangers was a book that dragged for me. I didn’t initially like Frances at all – I found her rude, self-centred and over the top – which is most unfortunate as the majority of the book is told from her point of view. Most importantly, however, for the first 3/4 quarters of the book, nothing happened! The characters woke up, drank their suspect smoothies (I have so many unanswered questions), didn’t talk to each other (they were under a vow of silence), did yoga, went to bed and started the day over. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
In the final quarter of the book, Moriarty introduced some suspense and mystery elements to the plot, that had me sit up and pay attention. I started to connect with the characters a tiny bit. To the point that I wanted to know what happened! In hindsight, the ending is over the top dramatic and kind of crazy out of the blue given the books pacing, but at the time, I just remember thinking FINALLY. Then the story wrapped up super quick, there was an epilogue of sorts which tied together ‘everything’ with a nice big bow and the book simply ended. Just like that. My head was left reeling it happened so fast. What’s worse is that a lot of my questions weren’t answered!
Moriarty’s writing has always been highly entertaining and delightful to me in the past. Which leads me to wonder if the form that I ‘read’ this book in partially contributed to my experience. Caroline Lee’s delivery of the book isn’t bad, but perhaps the book itself doesn’t lend itself to the audio form as much as other books do? What’s more, I wonder if it was a case of the wrong book, wrong time? Every time we open a book, our own personal state of mind, preferences and experience affect the way we read and receive the text. While its true I wasn’t going through any negative or traumatic experiences at the time, perhaps my state of being wasn’t prime time reading either? Perhaps this just wasn’t a book for me, personally. We will never know.
What I do know is, when Liane Moriarty’s future books release, I will continue to buy them ASAP. Years of loyal readership and respect does not simply vanish because of one mediocre book. I’m excited to see what she comes out with next and where her writing career is heading, with everything happening in Hollywood with Big Little Lies and her other books being optioned, the world is Moriarty’s oyster and she can only go up from here.
Nine Perfect Strangers is clearly not my favourite Liane Moriarty book by far. So if this was the first of her books you picked up or were thinking of picking up, I would strongly advise you to perhaps try your hand at one of her other books first.
Have you read Nine Perfect Strangers? Did you love it? Hate it? I loved to hear your thoughts, because honestly, so many months later I’m still so conflicted by this book…
To learn more about Liane Moriarty, visit the following social media sites:
To purchase a copy of Nine Perfect Strangers, visit the following online retailers:
Pan Macmillian Australia | Amazon AUS | Amazon US | Angus & Robertson | Audible | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks |