Reading room: latest books
An ordinary backyard barbecue goes catastrophically wrong in the latest gripping suburban psycho drama from one of Australia’s best-selling authors, says Juliet Rieden.
Truly Madly Guilty
The secret to author Liane Moriarty’s success is her razor-sharp characterisation. The cast of friends and neighbours are not just fictional constructions, they leap from the page into our consciousness; so recognisable that we feel we not only understand the sort of person they may be, we’ve actually met them. Add to this situations that hail from average suburban life and pivotal social dilemmas that resonate, and it’s easy to see why Liane is a number one on The New York Times best-seller list and one of Australian publishing’s most exciting exports.
Her latest novel is not as biting as Big Little Lies, her last hit, but is utterly addictive nevertheless. Like Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap, Truly Madly Guilty is set at an impromptu backyard barbecue where the long-festering differences between childhood – and supposedly ‘best’ – friends Erika and Clementine receive a pithy airing. In truth, these two women couldn’t be more different and from the opening page a tension sizzles between them.
Obsessive-compulsive accountant Erika and husband Oliver have no children, while scatty, creative cellist Clementine and husband Sam have two girls. The couples come together at a spur-of-the- moment barbecue at the home of Erika’s showily wealthy neighbour Vid, his “smoking hot” wife, Tiffany, and their rather intelligent 10-year-old daughter, Dakota. Before the event starts, Erika and Oliver broach an awkward topic and ask Clementine if she will donate her eggs so they can have a baby. With this unforeseen – and somewhat unwelcome – request hanging in the air, the friends proceed to the barbecue where an afternoon of rash drinking results in a shocking event with widespread repercussions.
“I was well into the novel before I realised that people would compare it to The Slap!” says Liane. “I think the backyard barbecue is an Australian institution and I love writing novels with ordinary situations.
“I was inspired by a small incident that took place at a backyard barbecue with friends. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and that was the spark of inspiration for the novel. Although I didn’t replicate the incident, I can’t tell you what happened because that would give away too much of the plot.”
That plot races along at a tantalising pace as it flits back and forth in time, delivering twists you don’t see coming and fevered emotions.
“I was inspired by a small incident that took place at a backyard barbecue with friends. I couldn’t stop thinking about it... ”