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Having read another of Liane Moriarty's books before, and rather enjoyed the intriguing story, I was pleasantly surprised when What Alice Forgot was next in line to read on my bookshelf. This novel from aussie Moriarty was an easy enough read that I could finish it in a couple of days, but deep enough that it really made me think.
The novel follows the title character Alice after she gets a bump on the head following a fall at the gym and consequently forgets the previous 10 years. Unfortunately, this means that she has forgotten the birth of all three children, why half of her former friends and neighbours no longer seem to like her much, and why she's getting divorced from the husband that she was so deeply in love with.
The reason that this book is not the average 'chick-lit' is the different stories it delves into, and the different ways in which they're written. The stories of both Alice's sister Elisabeth and her great-grandmother Frannie are told in different, interesting ways, and really add something to the story.
Overall, this novel was not what I expected, but quite a lot better, and I would definitely recommend it.
When Alice Love wakes up on the floor of her gym, the last thing she expects is to be told she's a 39-year-old mother of three in the middle of a divorce, particularly since Alice thinks she's 29-years-old, happily married and pregnant with her first child. It appears that Alice has had a large bump on the head and has lost the last ten years of her life. As Alice comes to terms with the fact she's not who she thinks she is, she realises she doesn't like the woman she has become. Can Alice recapture the spirit of her 29-year-old self and more importantly, can Alice recover her memories of the last 10 years of her life?
When I first heard of Liane Moriarty's new book, What Alice Forgot, I was immediately excited. It sounded like a fantastic read. I love books that deal with amnesia and I figured What Alice Forgot would be a similar tale to Sophie Kinsella's Remember Me? which was a fantastic read about a woman losing years of her life, similar to what Alice faces. What Alice Forgot was originally due out in the middle of 2009, but was delayed to the beginning of 2010 and then delayed again until June 2010 and my excitement for the book was building and I was pleased to finally get my hands on a copy.
What Alice Forgot is very similar to Sophie Kinsella's tale Remember Me?, but Remember Me? is a much lighter affair (it's Sophie Kinsella after all) and What Alice Forgot is a far deeper (and longer) tale. That's no bad thing, though, as I loved both books and they both suit my tastes. We're thrown straight into the action at the beginning of What Alice Forgot as she has her nasty fall so we don't get to know the 39-year-old Alice very well and are thrust straight into the world of 29-year-old Alice. I immediately loved 29-year-old Alice, she seemed so free-spirited and happy and her confusion when she was told she was actually a 39-year-old mother of three was easy to see and it made for really interesting reading.
Because 29-year-old Alice believes that she's happily married and pregnant with her first child, and also that she and her sister Elisabeth are close, it comes as a series of shocks to her when she realises she has three actual children and that not only does she not remember having them, she doesn't remember them period. To then learn herself and Nick, her husband, are on the brink of divorce and also that Alice and Elisabeth are as close as the North and South pole, was quite sad to read - to believe you're 29 and to suddenly age 10 years must be a pretty scary thing and Liane Moriarty managed to bring across Alice's anguish perfectly. To have three children and not even know who they are was obviously a little controversial - how can she not know her kids? - but that's the power of amnesia, it makes you forget the most simple (and important) things.
What really made the book for me though was Alice's realisation that her 39-year-old self wasn't a nice person at all. She was nothing like the 29-year-old free spirit, in fact she was the total opposite. So it was easy to see how Alice and Nick's relationship disintegrated. Alice turned into a total control freak, it seemed, and it just tore them apart. The ever-mysterious Gina certainly didn't help Nick and Alice's marriage and I was stunned at just how ferocious Nick was the first time he and Alice talked after her accident. It was clear that something had gone seriously wrong in Alice's life, something that caused her to become uptight, to argue with her husband and to practically lose contact with her beloved sister. All is revealed but not quickly. No where near quicky, in fact. A flashback or a loose mention of a name awakens something in Alice's memory and so we learn a tid-bit of Alice's life as it is now but never enough to truly hold on to. It was a very clever way of letting us all know what had happened and it certainly kept me reading.
All of the characters who help make up What Alice Forgot are fantastic. They all add to the story and I loved Alice, as you might expect. I like that we didn't get to know Alice before her bump on the head because I don't think I would have liked her so the fact we met Alice right after her bump on the head allowed me to like her from the off. I was a bit wary of Nick, Alice's husband, because as I said, he wasn't pleasant when we first meet him but there's two sides to every story and he didn't seem like a bad character. I think Nick came across best in Alice's memories of him as a 29-year-old, their relationship seemed so sweet and lovely. Elisabeth, Alice's sister, has a huge part to play in the book because although 39-year-old Alice doesn't have contact with Elisabeth, 29-year-old Alice thinks they're best friends so it's interesting to see how their relationship develops. There are other characters throughout the book but the only other one who made any impact on me was Frannie, Alice and Elisabeth's grandmother. I just loved her.
The book is told in third-person, which I wasn't expecting, but it works well so it wasn't a problem. It's all from Alice's point of view, too. But as well as the usual narrative, there are also diary/journal type entries from Elisabeth, which confused me at first, but it soon makes sense, as well as blog entries from Frannie. All three women are experiencing troubles, some more serious than others and it was interesting to get their take on things. I particularly enjoyed Elisabeth's diary entries, they were insightful. Overall I really loved What Alice Forgot, it is certainly one of the better amnesia stories out there and I hugely enjoyed all of the 496 pages. I hugely recommend you pick this one up, as you won't regret it.