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I inadvertently just read two similar books in a row. The first, In Five Years, has the main character ‘seeing’ her life in five years time and it’s a very different future. In What Alice Forgot, our main character (Alice, obviously) hits her head and forgets everything that has happened in the last ten years. Basically she’s jumped ten years of her life and again, for her, it’s a very different future.
I loved In Five Years, it's a great book, and yet Moriarty manages to raise the bar when I compare the two. What Alice Forgot is a brilliant piece of almost perfect literature which gives me an inkling of why Moriarty has become the queen of the bestseller lists in recent years.
Alice thinks she’s 29, happily married to Nick, and pregnant with their first child. In reality she’s 39, in the middle of a divorce, and has had three children. Without that ten years of life and memories, Alice can’t understand why she would be divorcing Nick and decides she will do everything in her power to get her family back together again. The story at its heart is an unconventional romance really but I wouldn’t say, considering I love the genre, it’s what I found the most enjoyable about the book.
I did love the humour. I laughed so hard quite often. I especially loved how confused Alice was about her new diet and exercise regime.
It’s not all romance and comedy though because, boy, did I cry. I think the only reason I held back a few times was because I was listening via audible and sobbing like a baby as you’re driving is probably not recommended. It was probably Elizabeth, Alice’s sister, and her storyline which caused me the most grief. Her struggles with infertility were heartbreaking.
One of the main themes of the book was how everyone perceives situations differently. Sometimes your perception might be skewed due to your individual history or because you don’t know all the facts, for example, and Moriarty has some great examples of this when Alice catches up on the last ten years of her life. I enjoyed the parts of the book when two characters view the exact same scene in quite a different way. When some of Alice’s memories return she realises that others have given her a very different view on the same events, albeit not always deliberately, but different nevertheless.
There are a couple of other themes that she makes you think about with the book. One is how your history and environment shapes you and changes you. 39 year old Alice with her memory had ten more years of life experience that made her act in a completely different way to 29 year old Alice. There is also the genetic vs environment argument brought up in relation to Elizabeth’s difficulties; plus the favourite of fictional works in the past 15 years or so, the definition of family (which was heavily covered in In Five Years), as personified by Alice’s ‘grandmother’. And, obviously, there's the theme of forgiveness - something Alice will need to tackle if she wants her life to get back to where it was ten years previous.
Moriarty managed to make all of What Alice Forgot’s characters believably flawed. Alice can be horrid. Nick has so many weaknesses that I occasionally was confused as to whether or not I should even like him, let alone be cheering Alice to get back with him. Elizabeth could even be a class A bitch. Moriarty was skilled enough to make me like them even more because of their flaws. And, to be honest, it made the unrealistic parts of the book (can you really have such a bout of selective amnesia?) insignificant.
Actually, I will admit, I didn’t question the amnesia idea because it was just far too interesting. If I had one whine I would say it was some parts of the book have already aged. Alice’s grandmother’s blog, for example, seemed a bit of a silly device which felt really dated. (Thinking about it now, it’s not really worthy of a whine though as the book can hardly be held accountable for what was trending when it was written.)
I would highly recommend the audio version. Caroline Lee gives a 5 star performance with excellent comic timing and fabulous choices for the different voices.
The only other Moriarty book I’d read was The Last Anniversary and, although I remember enjoying it, I wouldn’t say it stood out to me as being brilliant. However, as I said, I can now understand why Moriarty is such a big deal because What Alice Forgot is an easy 5 out of 5.