I read The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty a while ago, and wasn’t hugely impressed. It wasn’t a bad book by any means, but I didn’t really understand the hype.
When I got my copy of What Alice Forgot through the post, I didn’t have very high hopes. But the story sounded interesting, and the next book on my list was Mandela’s autobiography, so I thought I’d read it quickly before getting stuck into African politics for the next couple of weeks.
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 forever?
An intriguing blurb. And a good book, on the whole. Moriarty still isn’t up there in my list of authors who make me jump up and down excitedly when one of their novels drops through my door (hello, Jane Green, I’m talking to you), but I definitely preferred this to The Husband’s Secret, and it explored some interesting questions about life and relationships.
The idea of waking up and assuming that your life was the same as it was ten years ago – of trying to go about your daily business when all your relationships are actually different in real life – is a fascinating concept. Alice has seen some significant changes over the decade leading up to her accident (even if she can’t remember any of them), and the internal monologue of watching herself navigate the world and her friends, but simultaneously being confused about who they even are, let alone what is happening, is a really interesting read.
Naturally it got me thinking about what it would be like if the same thing happened in my life, and, well… I’d be fifteen. Or rather, I’d be waking up assuming I was fifteen. Thinking about going into school and having double Chemistry with Clara and Muesli and the gang, lighting the ends of each other’s hair on fire with bunsen burners and being far too irresponsible with the corrosive substances. I’d be getting up to go and do my paper round, crimping my hair into feathery fronds, nearly falling out of the cabin bed which didn’t have a side panel when my CD alarm clock started blasting No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age.
Sometimes I fall into the trap of berating myself for not getting enough done. I want to do something important with my life, something good for the world as a whole – and yes, I had the classic quarter-life-crisis when I hit twenty-five in 2013. But reading this book was actually a good wake-up call. It reminded me that just ten years ago I was a high school student, and one who would have given almost anything for the life I have now. One who never would have predicted falling in love at eighteen and getting married a short time later, having a four-day long wedding in the grounds of a hotel because that was where we lived, adopting a teenager and getting up every morning to send her off to school, working in advertising for five years, climbing the ranks within a company to eventually run an operations department, then quitting after half a decade to finally work for myself again.
I guess I’ve done a lot in the past ten years. And perhaps it took a book like this to make me remember it.
For that, Ms. Moriarty, I am grateful. I like What Alice Forgot, I think it’s a good solid novel, and an improvement on The Husband’s Secret, which I found just a little too much. I’m looking forward to the next book. And to the next ten years of life. Here’s hoping I’ll remember them 😉