Friday, November 25, 2022

Nine Perfect Strangers: Liane Moriarty


Nine Perfect Strangers was the first book I read in November. I was very surprised at how much I liked it. I am still confused as to how to categorize it. I had initially assumed it was a mystery, and there definitely is a mystery, but not in the same way as most crime fiction I read. At Goodreads it has been classified as a suspense thriller or as contemporary fiction or even as chick lit (which I don't see at all). 

In this book nine people visit a very expensive health spa for a 10-day stay. Many of them seem to just be looking for rest and relaxation from their normal lives, or a chance to lose some pounds and eat better, but the reality is that their problems are much deeper. They have been warned that the 10 days will be free from electronic devices of any kind and alcohol and drugs of any kind. But still they go into the spa taking their hidden caches of sugar and alcohol and are reluctant to let go of their phones and laptops. 

The characters are revealed gradually. They are not in reality nine "perfect" strangers because two of the clients are a married couple and there is also a family of three with a 20-year-old daughter. My interpretation was that the "stranger" part was true because even within these family relationships they were withholding the truth about themselves (which is pretty normal), or refusing to see the truth of their relationships. It was a very interesting group.

I like the way the characters were presented and their issues gradually revealed. I could not tell what was going on for at least 3/4 of the book, yet was entranced with the story, not exasperated. Frances, a middle aged woman who was once a very successful author of romance novels, is given the most attention. She has recently had a new book rejected by her publisher and also been the victim of a very demoralizing scam. There is also a lot of focus on the young couple, Ben and Jessica, and the family group, Napoleon and Heather and their daughter, Zoe. 

And then there is Masha, the owner of the spa. She is actually on the weird end of the scale and it is difficult to know what her agenda is. Over time, the reader gets to know more about her background, too.

I found most of the characters interesting and none of them were extremely irritating or unlikeable. Some of the characters seem to be very superficial and then their strengths and gifts are exposed later. My expectations of the characters were challenged along the way. 

It is obvious that my focus was on the characters and that drove my enjoyment of the story. I kept expecting something "thrilling" to happen, and the story builds up to that event very slowly. The story was mostly light, not overly serious, and was told with humor.

Liane Moriarty is an Australian author, and her books are very popular. The setting is in Australia, but almost all of the story is set in the spa in a remote part of the country, so I did not get a real sense of Australia from reading the book.

I have read no other books by this author but I would not mind trying others she wrote, except Big Little Lies, which might be too dark for me.

I recently watched the first episode of the adaptation of this book, with Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy. Even though I can see that some of the story, and the characters, have changed, I plan to watch more episodes.


Publisher:  Flatiron Books, 2018.
Length:      450 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Setting:      Australia
Genre:        Thriller
Source:      I purchased my copy in 1922.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I admire how patient you are in your reading. I have enjoyed several of her books but never tried this one. I did see the TV series although you needed patience with that too.

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Tracy, It's now a TV series on Hulu I think. It must take real skill for an author to write a novel featuring 9 separate characters and keep them different from each other and give them their own unique personality. It would be like a juggling act and it sounds like the author did a great job.

TracyK said...

Patti, This one kept me entertained or puzzled throughout. I hope I can last through the eight episodes of the TV series.

TracyK said...

I agree, Kathy, keeping nine or more separate personalities separate and consistent must take a lot of work. The writing was very good. Maybe the book was a bit longer than it needed to be but it was fun.

The series is on Hulu and luckily we subscribe to that one already.

Cath said...

This one's new to me and does sound interesting, shame the Aussie setting is not more to the fore. I feel like I don't read enough books set in Australia and New Zealand, might try to put that right next year. Margot Kinberg featured crime books up for an award in NZ on her YT channel a couple of weeks ago and they really did sound very good.

Margot Kinberg said...

I have been wanting to read this, Tracy, and your review makes it sound even more appealing. It doesn't sound like what you'd call 'usual" crime fiction, but it does sound like a fascinating character study, and I like the setting and context. I've enjoyed other Moriarty work, too, so I think I might enjoy this one.

CLM said...

I suspect she has toned down the setting to make it more appealing to a worldwide audience. It's a pity! I know some people were offended that the miniseries of Big Little Lies changed the setting to Los Angeles (at least I think so: I enjoyed that book but didn't care for the miniseries and only watched part of the first episode). I guess I would categorize her books as suspense. I agree it is hard to have so many prominent characters and give each a unique voice.

I have not read this one yet but have enjoyed her and her sisters' books. My favorites are two YA novels by her sister Jaclyn, Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Year of Secret Assignments.

Lark said...

This one does sound interesting. I like character-driven stories. I've never read anything by this author yet. Though her books seem very popular.

TracyK said...

Cath, I did a challenge to read Australian Women Authors for two years back in 2014 and 2017. That led me to read more books by Australian authors. But one problem I had with many books from Australian authors were that they were unavailable here or too expensive. That means a lot of lesser known authors get little exposure outside of Australia. Maybe that is improving now. One of my favorite bloggers, Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, was Australian and supported Australian authors, especially women. As does Margot.

Possibly other books by Liane Moriarty use the Australian setting better? I had read Big Little Lies (another book by the author that was adapted and starred Nicole Kidman) is set in a coastal Australian town. The topics in that scare me but it has lots of fans.

TracyK said...

Margot, the fact that this is not like your usual crime fiction makes it even more attractive to me, but since I did not know that going in, it was a bit confusing. My only complaint might be the length, at 450 pages.

TracyK said...

Constance, it is disappointing that they moved the setting of Big Little Lies to a California beach town. I don't know that I would watch that anyway, even if I do end up reading that book somday.

I had read that Liane Moriarty has two sisters who are also authors. Thanks for the suggestions for the two YA novels. I checked them out and they do look interesting.

TracyK said...

Lark, I think I have missed reading anything else by Liane Moriarty because in years past I was concentrating on vintage crime fiction and crime fiction written up to 2000. I read this one because I found a copy at the recent annual book sale, but it was still priced at $5.00. And luckily, I really liked it.

If you haven't tried other books by her, I hesitate to recommend this one, but it worked well for me. And it is definitely character-driven.