Nine Perfect Strangers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 20 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

I read this book on holiday-in fact I noticed a few people had this in their hands by the pool! And I can see why, it was thoroughly entertaining. It was a bit of a slow burner but I didn't mind that. I liked the cast of characters and the element of intrigue.
Was this review helpful?
A good read if you are a fan of Big Little Lies, though this novel may leave readers wanting in some areas. The characters were vibrant, sharp and well-drawn, with some excellent interactions; however, the plot was not as satisfying as I would have liked (or indeed the author’s other work). Still worth a read.
Was this review helpful?
I was a huge fan of Big Little Lies, but didn't love this one as much. Characters were classic Liane Moriarty - really sharp and brilliantly realised, with great dialogue - but the plot didn't play out in a satisfying way in my opinion. Would still read more of her work though.
Was this review helpful?
I thank NetGalley and the publisher (Michael Joseph UK) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review. 
I’ve read and reviewed two novels by Moriarty, Little Big Lies and Truly, Madly, Deadly, quite different but enjoyable. The first one is funnier, sharper, wittier, and flashier than the other, which is more intense, focuses around a single event and its consequences (although that is a structure the author comes back time and again), the characters are less extreme, glamorous, bubbly, and more evidently damaged and vulnerable. Secrets and lies are a common occurrence, and the difference between appearances and reality and the games people play are present in both. There are similarities in some of the themes and subjects in both novels, and these are also evident in Nine Perfect Strangers, which, in my opinion, sits somewhere in between with regards to the tone and the subject matter. The high quality of the writing is also a constant in the three books.
We have a fairly large cast of characters, seemingly unrelated and contrasting in their beliefs and attitudes to life (although not particularly diverse), composed by the guests (or clients) at an Australian wellness retreat, and the staff members. The guests are: a family of three (Napoleon, Heather, and Zoe, their daughter, whose 21st birthday is due during their stay at Tranquillum House, all still struggling with a big loss in their lives); a young couple, Jessica and Ben, who won the lottery and now are rich beyond their wildest dreams but not necessarily happier; a romance writer who hasn’t moved with the times (Frances); Tony, and ex-footballer (Australian football) who used to be known as Smiley but seems to find it difficult to find his place in the world now, Lars, a divorce lawyer living happily (?) with a long-term male partner but afraid to commit too much (no children); and Carmel, a divorced mother obsessed by her weight and lacking in self-confidence. The staff members are Masha, Yao, and Delilah. Masha, who used to hold a high-powered corporate position, has rediscovered herself as a wellness guru. Delilah used to be her PA in her previous incarnation and has come along for the ride, and Yao, formerly a paramedic, met Masha in interesting circumstances and is convinced by her programme and devoted to her. At first, this mishmash of characters seem straight out of a joke book, and they appear as caricatures, but through their “therapy” we get to know them as fully fledged individuals and get to empathise with them. There are parallels between them, perhaps inevitably. All of them are struggling with changes in their lives, due to age, to personal tragedies, to external events, and have difficulty coming to terms with those and moving on. Some of the characters are better drawn than others although none of them are true evil, they all (or most) have their moments of clarity and stardom, and I think most readers are likely to find somebody to connect with. 
The story is told in the third person from most of the characters’ points of views, although some get more space than others (Frances, Masha, Yao, for example have a great deal to say), but this varies as the story evolves, and this technique helps readers get into the thick of things. There is a fairly dramatic prologue, which takes place ten years before the rest of the action and at first appears unrelated, but is not. After the main action of the novel ends (this somewhat “false” ending is cathartic but not quite as dramatic as the reveals in the two other novels), we have a number of chapters that follow the characters (some of them) for a period afterwards, providing a protracted ending that I really enjoyed and thought suited the story well. (One of the problem with therapies is that sometimes we don’t get a long-enough follow-up to see how effective they are long-term. This is not the case here).
I won’t go into detail about the actual therapy the guests engage in, as I want to avoid spoilers. Let’s say some of the elements will be familiar to people who have ever undertaken (or even read about) a retreat, but there are some pretty big surprises, and things turn pretty dark too, although people who prefer their novels free from major violence and blood are on safe ground here. That does not mean that there are no serious subjects at the heart of the novel (loss and suicide feature heavily, as does drug use, growing older… and there are major questions asked, such as: what defines who we are, how much value we place in those around us and our relationships with them, our role in society versus our own interests…), but there are moments of mirth and hilarity (many down to Frances, who made me think of the heroin of a chick-lit novel growing older disgracefully, as should be), and despite the difficult moments all the characters go through, this is not a challenging reading experience, and there are no great insights or revelations bound to make any readers feel enlightened or keep them thinking for ages once they finish the novel. It’s true that all the characters learn something by the end, but, if there is a serious message in this novel is that there are no quick-fixes or shortcuts to solving one’s problems, and we have to keep working at it day after day. But you might come to a different conclusion if you read it. 
A few quotes from the book:
So I called reception and asked for a lower, cloudier, more comfortable sky. (Frances, describing how she felt contemplating the sky that day).
Sol was a real man who didn’t like adjectives or throw cushions.
She sucked in her stomach, ready to take it like a man, or at least like a romance novelist capable of reading her own royalty statements. (This is dedicated to all fellow authors). 
In sum, I enjoyed the novel, although it is not my favourite work by the Moriarty. It has light touches and funny moments, some serious ones, pretty memorable characters, some ominous and dark undertones, it is easy to read, well-written engaging and entertaining. Another Australian author whose books I eagerly await.
Was this review helpful?
Nine people (not all strangers) check into a health resort with a view to change their lives. Their reasons are valid in today's world.  They have no idea what is really in store for them. The book moved at a good pace and with a feeling of suspense,  however you do have to just 'go with it' towards the end of the story which is improbable.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
NIne Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Frances Weltby remembers when she was a best-selling romantic novelist (who hasn’t read Nathaniel’s Kiss?) but her latest novel has just been rejected by her publisher and she’s also received a damning review that hurts. And then she fell victim to a scam artist, putting her heart at risk of breaking. She needs to recharge her batteries, to ready herself for the next phase of her life, and so she drives for several hours away from Sydney, Australia, to Tranquillum House, a remote health resort run by a charismatic born-again fitness guru.

Frances is joined there by eight other men and women, all of whom are hoping to reemerge as new people at the end of their ten-day treatment. It won’t be easy. They will be taken way outside their comfort zone (no wine or coffee or screens, for starters). But it is all fascinating for Frances, who feels inspired by her companions, each of whom has secrets, sadnesses and quirky foibles. They are like onions, ready to reveal their layers to this hungry observer of life.

And so begins a stay that will transform these nine lives. They’re quite a bunch – a retired sportsman, a bereaved family, a young ridiculously rich couple with a marriage on the verge of tatters, a woman who wants nothing more than to be so thin she’d be invisible, a handsome glitzy divorce lawyer. They each need help. The problem is, it’s not so sure that they’re going to get it and what they do get might not be exactly what anyone would want. It’s certainly going to be memorable…

As soon as I heard about Nine Perfect Strangers, I knew I wanted to read it and I read it as soon as I got my hands on it. The idea of a group of strangers on some kind of retreat or cut off from the outside world in some other way is a popular theme at the moment, especially in psychological thrillers, and I really like it. The idea of a controversial health resort in the middle of nowhere in Australia is also appealing. I can’t say that I fancy this sort of thing myself and having read this novel I can see that I’m right.

What happens in Tranquillum House is for you to discover but the main charm of this novel isn’t the plot (which is sort of a psychological thriller) but the author’s fine observation of her characters and the witty prose. This is a very funny novel in places. Frances, the woman that we’re supposed to identify with the most, gets most of the best lines and she’s a joy to spend time with, although, as with most of the characters, there is also something tragic about her. This is emotional stuff. One minute you’ll be chuckling, and the next you could find yourself crying. Some of these characters have a lot to cry about, whereas others are just so sad. One in particular speaks little. She barely exists. The narrative moves between the ‘patients’ and so we get to know a little about them all but, inevitably, some more than others. There were some I didn’t care much about but there are a few that I cared deeply for.

I did have some issues with the novel and most of those begin at the halfway point. Without giving anything away, the story takes a turn into preposterous and ridiculous country and I don’t think it recovers from this. It really does get daft and one or two people take on almost pantomime characteristics. Nevertheless, Nine Perfect Strangers is such a light and fast read (despite the length) that I stuck with it to the end, wanting to know the fate of the characters I did care about. I liked the mingling of humour and great sadness. I enjoyed the wit and lightness of the writing. If you’re after a fun holiday read, then this might well fit the bill.
Was this review helpful?
Liane Moriaty's suspenseful thriller was a real page turner. I couldn't put it down!

It's a simple enough premise, nine strangers trapped in isolation with only each other to rely on. However Moriaty mixes things up a little bit by having the strangers isolate themselves in the form of a health retreat. It's a timely choice given how often we read about celebrities disappearing for cleanses, bootcamps and retreats. However Tranquillum House is a retreat with a difference, which soon becomes apparent as a veil of secrecy and eerie not-quite-right feelings descend on both the inhabitants and the reader. 

I love the tongue-in-cheek nature of Moriaty's writing however it never steered too far away for its main purpose - to unsettle and entertain. The strength of this book lies in the creeping feelings of discomfort and the main characters. Some are likeable, some are unlovable but they're all magnetic with their own faults and flaws that drew them to the retreat and that keep the reader hooked. 

I really enjoyed this, the first of Moriaty's books I have read. It certainly won't be the last.
Was this review helpful?
Found this a little hard going so gave up
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Loved it! Another great novel from Liane Moriarty. 

Great drama and characters, amazing storyline, in some ways far fetched but also something you really can imagine could happen, in today's society with more people considering retreats etc.

I really do hope that Drew Barrymore has bought the rights to this one too, I understand she has acquired another since Big Little Lies. This would make another great film/tv serialisation.

Thank you to Netgalley for an early copy for a review - apologies that it had already been published before I managed to do so.
Was this review helpful?
9 people (some of them are strangers) go to a Health Retreat in a remote part of Australia and all are hoping for a life-changing experience.  This is the first book I have read by Liane Moriarty.   An unusual book that got more interesting as it progressed and then had a satisfying ending. I look forward to reading more books by Liane Moriarty and thank #netgalley for the opportunity to read #NinePerfectStrangers and give this honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This is the first book by Liane Moriarty that I read and I was amazed by all the twists and turns in the stories of these nine – actually eleven – main characters.

One of them being Frances who has been suffering from lower back pain ever since she and the man she was romantically involved with, Paul, is no longer part of her life. This is psychosomatic pain, she knows, 'except knowing it was psychosomatic pain didn't make it hurt any less.' 
So what happened to Paul? And what happens to Frances during her ten day retreat? Is she really capable of killing someone as her literary agent suggested?

All eleven personages – whose lives are far from perfect – suffer from things that happened in the past and that made them who they are when entering the resort. Can they imagine being a leaf? 'The stream will carry you this way and that, but it will carry you forward to where you need to go.'

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book.
Was this review helpful?
Another unputdownable  offering from Lianne. Lots of characters, all with their flaws, some more likeable than others. You do have to suspend disbelief a little with this title, nevertheless an enjoyable read.
Was this review helpful?
Liane Moriarty has the incredible ability to describe the minds of people to the point, authentic and in a way that is a pleasure to read.

I felt most connected to Frances, not least because I completely agree with her that I can give up wine and talking and maybe also sweets, but I definitely cannot give up reading a book for a few days that are supposed to be like a holiday. But Frances also feels like a more major character than most of the others, probably because we get to know her quite good and she also observes for us some of the other guests at Tranquillum House.

When the story came to the lock-in it was probably supposed to get suspenseful. For me the opposite happened, I found the first part, where we met all the different characters and heard their stories, a lot more interesting than how these strangers interact in a serious situation. 
The epilogue, where we learn where everybody is at a week, a month, a year... after those days at Tranquillum House, was very informative and a perfect round-up to the story.
Was this review helpful?
Liane never gets it wrong and this is such a clever story. I've recommended it to my book club. Thanks for the advanced copy.
Was this review helpful?
When I first started this fascinating read, I thought it was going to be something more akin to Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" - with nine, instead of ten, guests in a remote location slowly getting picked off one by one. But no, there is nothing conventional at all about this latest tale from Liane Moriarty.
Set in a remote wellness clinic in Australia, nine guests gather set on self-improvement. Despite the book's title, they aren't all strangers - husband and wife Jessica and Ben are trying to patch their marriage back together; parents Napoleon & Heather and their daughter Zoe are still grieving the suicide of Zoe's twin brother Zach; and then there are four solo guests - romance author, Frances, desperately trying to remain relevant in a changing world; retired AFL player, Tony, forced to live in his glorious past; handsome gay lawyer, Lars, unwilling to listen to his partner's pleas for a child; and stressed out single mother, Carmel, whose husband traded her in for a younger model.
Each guest comes to the retreat with a wealth of issues, seeking some kind of resolution and personal advancement. What they don't expect, and nor did I the reader, was what followed! Suffice it to say that the clinic's methods are far from orthodox - and while it may start with tai chi, yoga, massages, facials, smoothies, etc. It ends in a much darker and stranger place than anyone anticipated. 
I don't want to give away the big plot twist, but for me it was a bit too extreme to be believable. The strength in Moriarty's writing made me not give up hope, but this almost became a DNF for me. There is a lot to like in this book - I loved the characters who were believable and vividly portrayed, and I also loved the fact that despite the major plot twist, Moriarty pulls it all together for a really solid ending. It's just the path from start to finish that left me a little bewildered and not entirely convinced.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book. It was a fun read with a brilliant setting and the perfect plot.

Nine people at a spa all trying to feel better, 

Masha is divine, creepy and deadly and the guests have no idea what is in store for them, but it is a lot more than weight loss and massage.

This is a witty and unique read and comes highly recommended
Was this review helpful?
Liane Moriarty has a huge fan base and a previous title, “Big Little Lies” was turned into a successful HBO series and has been a NY Times bestseller.  “Nine Perfect Strangers” sounded like a fun holiday read, downloaded the e-book and started reading on holiday in Kenia. I have to confess I had my problems with the novel, after a promising start I got bored in the middle, the story started to drag, I put it aside and only when I had gave it another go when I was home with about 60 % on my Kindle read, did the book feel like this could become quite interesting and it was enjoyable in the end.  All in all, one has to persevere and stay with the story but in my judgement one of the weaker books I have read lately.

Nine perfect strangers, all of different age with varied backgrounds but with some serious personal issues in common, check into “Tranquillum House”, a spa which promises to totally transform their lives in 10 days.  Masha, a former business executive who went through a personal crisis and transformation herself after living an unhealthy life and suffering a near fatal heart attack, founded the clinic to make a difference in other peoples lives and runs it together with Yao, the very paramedic who was responsible for saving her life several years ago.  But different from previous treatments, no one is prepared for the more sinister agenda Masha seems to have in mind after the benign health checks, fasting and psychological counselling are completed. She wants to take the mission of the retreat to another level and the smoothies she hands out to her non suspecting clients are not only laced with nutritional fiber. …..

Without question the individual stories of the nine strangers have to be narrated thoroughly and were fun to read but I felt the book seriously dragging in the middle and nearly chucked the book aside which given the entertainment it did provide in the end would have been a shame.  Still, despite a pacing ending, a three star rating from me only.
Was this review helpful?
I have read a few by this author and really enjoyed them but sadly not this one.  I found it very slow to start and a really tedious read.  The blurb sounded good - nine people who book into for a ten day ‘cleanse’ at a health resort, and each of them has a reason for their stay.  I was unable to connect with any of the characters and really struggled to get to the end
Was this review helpful?
I think I’m a little bit disappointed with this book because I was expecting more to happen. However, this book was quite uneventful. The writing was amazing and I was enjoying it, and I’m definitely going to read more from Moriarty in the future. I just feel like this book had a lot more potential and could have been filled with more suspense. The characters were all really well written and all had different personalities, and I enjoyed reading about most of them. Although I did get a bit bored reading the chapters set in Masha’s point of view. This book was quite long, especially considering that not much happened in it. Unfortunately this is a short review because I don’t really know what to write. There were no parts of this book that really shocked me or disappointed me. Overall it was enjoyable but a little uneventful.
Was this review helpful?
Nine Perfect Strangers took my thoughts and emotions in many different directions. At times it was thrilling, at others sedate and plodding. It takes a while to meet all of the characters, and to understand the link between the opening chapter and the rest of the story. This for me made it a little slow, although ultimately easier to remember who is who later on. 

But even at two thirds of the way through I was still undecided on my feelings about the book. But it ends satisfyingly, which makes up for this, although not in a surprising way. 

I would recommend this book, it’s a longer than average read but worth it. Not ground breaking, but thought provoking, tear inducing, and it more than touches on strong subject matter like teen suicide and recreational drug use. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my ARC copy. Apologies for my delay in reviewing!
Was this review helpful?