What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Katie Pullen
Reviewed by Katie Pullen
Summary: What Alice has forgotten is the most important ten years of her life after a nasty bump on the head. As she tries to piece it all back together she finds a life distinctly different from the one she had been shaping ten years ago. A brilliant, quirky, and exceptional read, packed full of all the right ingredients, so go on and treat yourself.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: June 2010
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978-0141043760

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This wasn't the worst thing that had ever happened to her…it was just the most ridiculous laments thirty nine year old mother of three, Alice, who has had the last ten years of her life struck from her memory by a blow to the head in her step aerobics class. Alice now thinks she's twenty nine, newly pregnant with her first child and happily married to Nick and furthermore she hasn't a clue what she's doing at an aerobics class in the first place.

Alice soon learns that who she thinks she is, is at odds with the woman she appears to have evolved into, someone she has little in common with and for that matter doesn't even like very much. It appears her marriage to Nick is over, her once close relationship with her sister Elisabeth has become distinctly cold and she has no recollection of the three demanding children inhabiting her home. She starts to peel away the layers of her new life with the help of her sister and her grandmother Frannie and as faint memories begin to return, Alice begins to wonder whether her old self has been sent to the future to stop her life turning out the way it has. Will she ever get her old self back?

I know it's a cliché but this novel had me hook, line and sinker from the very beginning. There's no other way to describe how quickly I became engrossed in Alice's life and kept allowing myself just one more chapter before turning my attention to other responsibilities.

The twenty nine year old Alice is an instantly likeable, realistic woman completely lost in a world she doesn't recognise or understand. We know as little about the forgotten years of Alice's life as she does, so I felt I was right alongside her as she begins to make sense of people, places, vague memories, and indeed her thirty nine year old self whom she appears to have nothing in common with. I'll admit at times I was a bit too eager to second guess where the story was going as I figured this type of novel would be fairly predictable, so extra points go to Liane Moriarty for genuinely surprising me on more than one occasion with a brilliant twist and for making me think twice about what was coming next.

This is not just Alice's story though; for me the novel is as much about sisterhood and family as it is about Alice finding herself. Elisabeth, Alice's dutiful big sister, has a key role in helping Alice retrieve the last ten years, but she also has her own story to tell, which for me was at times more emotionally fulfilling than Alice's. The last few years of Elisabeth's life are revealed through a journal which slots easily within Alice's narrative. Although Alice's story is heartbreaking in itself, Elisabeth's is even more so, touching on some serious themes, and almost had me in tears at one point – quite a big deal for me considering this is contemporary fiction.

The light relief comes in the form of Alice's adopted grandmother Frannie's online blog which like Elisabeth's journal helps us to discover a little more about Alice, but also provides an amusing look at the life of a great grandmother and her online exploits. At times it's a welcome distraction from the underlying seriousness in the novel.

The amnesia plot may not be the most original – there are several novels I can think of that have successfully covered this topic in recent years – but Liane Moriarty has worked her own unique magic here, resulting in what has to be one of the most enjoyable books I've read in ages. I can only implore you to read this book, it has so much going for it, and although it is serious at times, it is also full of laughs and surprises, and even the cover is beautiful. But do savour every page because I'm sure like me you'll wish you hadn't read it so quickly.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For another book covering the theme of amnesia try The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes.

Booklists.jpg What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2010.

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