What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

aliceAfter a head injury at the gym, Alice wakes up missing ten years of her memory only remembering that she is twenty- nine, pregnant and madly in love with her husband, Nick. Remembering nothing from her current life, including her divorce and three children, Alice embarks on a journey to discover how this all happened and how to fix it. She discovers she is no longer the shy twenty-nine-year-old she used be. She is now a type- A, social and spin obsessed mother. As Alice recovers, she learns that her sister Elisabeth is married, and her mother married Nick’s father and for some reason she hates the man she was once madly in love with, Nick. Alice soon begins to notice that everyone around her is hiding something about a woman named Gina, and surrounded by this foreign lifestyle Alice must make sense of it.

While reading this book, I was able to understand and relate to Alice’s sister Elisabeth the most because she was such a good foil character for Alice. Apart from Alice’s injury, Elisabeth suffers from many of her own personal issues. Throughout the novel, she is asked to do homework by her therapist, Dr. Hodges, where she writes passages about how she is feeling and issues she is currently facing. These passages gave me such insight into Elizabeth’s relationship to the people around her, including the relationship she had with Alice. Liane Moriarty is also able to make readers reconsider their lives like Alice did in the book. Alice’s story is motivational and encourages readers to think about the decisions they have made and the impact that they have had on their lives today. Ultimately Alice’s injury is more of blessing than a curse because she is able to reconnect with what is important in her life.

Liane Moriarty (born November 15, 1966) is an Australian novelist who currently has six published books and her most popular and New York Times Bestseller novel Big Little Lies was recently made into a CBS mini-series that won several Emmys. I liked What Alice Forgot much more than Liane Moriarty’s other books because I felt the ending was less revealed throughout the story and more of a surprise at the end which I very much enjoyed. I recommend many other books by Moriarty, such as Big Little Lies.

 Reviewed by Yasmine A. ’18

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The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

kimThe Lake of Dreams is the enthralling story of the unraveling of buried family secrets and the unearthing of long-lost history. It follows the journey of a young woman as she digs up evidence and forms connections between century-old archives and present-day findings. She reveals intimate details of her family’s life, past and present, and attempts to solve the mystery of her father’s unresolved death but ends up discovering more than she bargained for.

When Lizzie is 17, she rejects her father’s request to go fishing with him and he proceeds to go alone and drowns. Lucy is left with the guilt of his death for years and never forgives herself. 13 years later, and she is living with her longtime partner, Yoshi, in Japan. She is unemployed and, after hearing that her mother has been in an accident, she returns home to her childhood town of the Lake of Dreams. On her first night at home, she discovers a lock on a window seat, which she is able to pick thanks to the past instruction of her father, who owned the family Hardware and Lock store. After successfully opening the compartment, she discovers a pile of ancient papers that, at first glance, looked like nothing special. After reviewing the notes, she discovers a pattern. There is a unique border around each of the letters and the style of the writing is consistent through many of the notes in the collection. She connects the intricate frame of the letter to the border on the chapel windows. She contacts many historians and relatives and unearths the story of a long-lost relative, Rose, and her connection to the women’s suffrage movement. The discoveries are centered around Rose’s life almost a century before, and her struggle of having to leave her child after being impregnated at age 15 and being abandoned by the baby’s father. Numerous letters between Rose and her daughter, Iris, and Rose and her brother, Joseph, Iris’ caretaker, are uncovered. She was the model in the chapel windows and was well-acquainted with the famous artist. Lucy visits endless historical societies to dig up as much information as she can to complete the puzzle of her family’s history and ultimately reveal a life-changing family secret: the true cause of her father’s death. All loose ends are eventually tied up and the family tension is put at ease.

The novel highlights the significance of dreams and how they symbolize events from the past or omens for the future. “Some dreams matter, illuminate a crucial choice or reveal some intuition that’s trying to push its way to the surface. Other, though, are detritus, the residue of the day reassembling itself in some disjointed and chaotic way.” Dreams lead Lizzie to discover places and people from her past, and ultimately direct her towards a life-altering discovery.

My main criticism is that, during the middle of the novel, the plot is sluggish and seems as though it is never going to intensify. There is some confusion over what the ultimate secret actually is because everything that Lucy is discovering throughout the book is all part of an unsolved mystery too, so until the last few pages, it is unclear what the plot is building up to be. It becomes more of a historical novel and less of an edge-of-your seat thriller. This dull section of the book is kept alive by Edward’s powerful use of poetic language and exhilarating word choice. Although the historical portion of the book may be boring to some people, Edwards uses language that is captivating and striking, so the text moves naturally and swiftly. “Rows and rows of books lined the shelves and I let my eyes linger on the sturdy spines, thinking how human books were, so full of ideas and images, worlds imagined, worlds perceived; full of fingerprints and sudden laughter and sighs of readers, too.” This sentence stands out to me due to its eloquence and deep poetic effect it conveys. I would recommend this beautifully written novel to anyone looking for the suspense of the revelation of family secrets and the unveiling of century-old history that ultimately changes the lives of many people.

Reviewed by Charlotte K. ’18

And Then There Were None

 

agatha.jpgThe world’s best-selling mystery, And Then There Were None was published on 6 November, 1939 and was commented as “the most baffling mystery that Agatha Christie has ever written” by The New York Times. In the novel, ten strangers are invited as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon, call the Indian Island. They all hold different occupations including a judge, a mistress, a soldier, a doctor, and a former inspector, but they are all lured into coming to the island for offers of employment, to spend their summer time, or to meet old friends. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, however, is nowhere to be found on the island. As each of the guests has been charged with a murder in the past, one by one becomes murdered eventually. After three days, all ten guests are found dead, and there are no one else on the Indian Island. So who killed them?

That’s the question that Christie makes us think about throughout the novel. The word “queer” is used more than 30 times in total since everything on the island indeed is very queer to the guests. They discover that no one actually knows the millionaire host, the Owens, and conclude that the name “U.N. Owen” is shorthand for “Unknown.” After dinner on the first night, a gramophone record is played, and an unknown voice reveals the wicked past of each guest and accuses each of a guilty secret, and soon one of the guests is dead. To make the whole thing of murdering more interesting, the murderer follows a nursery rhyme as closely as possible, and there are ten little soldier figures on the dinner table representing the ten prey. As soon as one victim dies, one china figure disappears too. It is intriguing to me as a reader that the rhythm gives a clue about what is going to happen to the next person, but I still found it completely puzzling and surprising when the next one dies. Same for the characters. Each time a murder happens, only the result of a death is shown in the text, but the process is never described or mentioned. Neither the other characters nor the readers have any ideas about how the victims are killed. The “ten little Indians” cannot fight their fate.

As there are ten characters thinking and acting in the story at the same time, it could be hard for the readers to distinguish between them clearly, but Christie does a wonderful. While reading, I was able to match the ten guests with their ten different jobs and their secret stories in the past. Each of the ten has a sub-plot for how the person directly or indirectly caused others’ death and what the person feels about it. Anthony Marston, a handsome but amoral and irresponsible young man, killed two young children while driving recklessly, for which he felt no guilt or personal responsibility at all, complaining only that his driving license was suspended as a result. Vera Claythorne, a young, efficient mistress, deliberately allowed the child she taught as a private teacher to swim out to sea and pretended to swim out too to “save” the boy but in fact let him drown. She did that with intentions that she believed good because her lover, the boy’s uncle, could become the family heir, inherit the estate and marry her. When the guests come together, for example for a meal, their thoughts inside are described in turn from a third-person omniscient point of view. After Christie writes that “six people, all outwardly self-possessed and normal. And within? Thoughts that ran round in a circle like squirrels in a cage…” she displayed their thoughts each in a short paragraph in italics. All the characters thus are portrayed very three-dimensional in their own ways.

And Then There Were None is not only widely considered as Agatha Christie’s masterpiece but also described by herself as the most difficult of her books to write. She said in her autobiography that “I had written the book… because it was so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me. Ten people had to die without it becoming ridiculous or the murderer being obvious. I wrote the book after a tremendous amount of planning, and I was pleased with what I had made of it.” She crafted the language with a really clear, straightforward, yet baffling style throughout the book. I found it easy-to-read, but I was still able to feel the intense and mysterious atmosphere and was captivated and stimulated every moment I read it. And Then There Were None is special because it’s a mystery without a detective — no Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple to make sense of things like they do in other Christie novels. She ingeniously includes a manuscript document recounted by the actual murderer after the epilogue. The murderer confides the crime processes and the true intent behind: to punish the guilty ones that are not convicted. It is said that “…there were many cases of a similar nature going on all the time—cases of deliberate murder—and all quite untouchable by the law,” which reveals the profound meaning underlying all the murders on the Indian Island. I was touched to see such a just mission that the murderer carried out.

If you are a mystery fan or simply intrigued by the plot thus far, And Then There Were None, an undoubtedly outstanding work by the Queen of Crime, is highly recommended. You should go read it; otherwise, you only “will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.”

Reviewed by Nina X ’18