Continuing in my trend of easy reading lately, this week’s book is The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty. This is the third of her books I’ve read now, and I chose it based on the fascinating premise. Ellen is a hypnotherapist, and her new boyfriend Patrick is being stalked by his ex-girlfriend, Saskia. I like stories with a crime thriller angle, so I was interested to read this portrayal, especially the cover also stated that Saskia would turn her gaze on Ellen too, and begin watching and following her obsessively too, always in the background of their lives.
Essentially, that is the crux of the story, and we get an insight into what effect Ssakia has on what could be a completely normal relationship between Ellen and widower Patrick. But of course, this being Liane Moriarty, she has crammed a lot more in than that. This is what I enjoy so much about her books. I don’t like the label ‘chick lit’, and I don’t usually read books which come under this title, as I find them a bit vapid and boring. But Moriarty’s stories are always more complex than this.
Unfortunately, this is where my main problem with this book lies, with the fact that I think there was too much going on. Moriarty tried to fit too many plot strands into the story, and it suffers for it. Within one book there are the following different plots (SPOILER ALERT):
– Saskia stalking Patrick and Ellen
– Patrick and Ellen’s relationship, including Ellen’s pregnancy
– Patrick’s feelings for his dead first wife, Colleen
– Patrick’s son Jack
– Ellen’s dad coming into her life for the first time in 35 years
I know that in real life people have similar strands of complication going on at once, but it just seemed like too much going on, and the factor of Colleen, despite playing a huge role in the latter half of the book, takes a long time to come into play in the book. It shows in the length of the book and the fact that there so many characters it is easy to lose track of them at times.
Perhaps it was in part due to this that I also found it difficult to warm to the characters. Although I quite liked Ellen and Jack, Patrick was not particularly likeable at all. My feelings for him ranged from indifferent at best to dislikeable at worst. I know this was meant to be due to the strain of being stalked by Saskia, but I couldn’t really see anything positive about him through that.
I really liked the dynamic between Ellen’s mum and her godmothers Mel and Pip, who jointly raised her. I would have liked to have seen more of it, but I think that was sacrificed for other plot points. I also, strangely, liked the insights into Saskia’s point of view. It gave me a great deal of sympathy for her, and dispelled the idea of her as just a random knife-wielding crazy woman, as the horror films so often portray. She was, in fact, just a sad woman who couldn’t let go of the past.
As always, I liked the Australian setting, and I loved the description of Ellen’s dreamy beachside house. The glass room of the house where Ellen works with her clients, and the beach it sits beside, sound like an idyll. But again, there wasn’t as much focus on the settings or the lifestyles of the characters as I’d like, as there were so many of them it was spread rather thinly.
I still enjoyed this book – Liane Moriarty has the knack of an easy read down to a fine art – and I have already ordered two more of her books, Three Wishes and Little Lies, which I will no doubt devour in a matter of days. But of the three I have read so far, What Alice Forgot is still my favourite. My overall consensus is that this book could have been great, but it misses the mark, trying to do too much. it just didn’t quite click for me. But please don’t let this put you off reading the rest of Moriarty’s work. Just maybe try a different book first.