Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Publication date: 7 March 2019
Genre: Commercial fiction
Page count: 464 pages
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
This review is spoiler-free
I don’t really know where to start with this review. I picked up Nine Perfect Strangers because I really enjoyed Big Little Lies and trusted Moriarty to write a sharp and compelling book. Where Big Little Lies is a well-structured page turner, Nine Perfect Strangers is a complete and utter mess. I was honestly shocked by the decline in quality!
One house. Nine strangers. Ten days that will change everything . . .
The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation.
Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambiance while enjoying their hot stone massages.
Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other.
Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined.
For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda.
These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them . . .
A lot of my grievances with this book stem from the second half and are therefore filled with spoilers, however I’m going to do my best to make this review spoiler-free. I think the most disappointing thing about this book is the fact that it just feels pointless — I didn’t understand what Moriarty was trying to accomplish. Was it a thriller? A commentary on the fad dieting industry? A commercial fiction romp? It really didn’t accomplish any of these things. The book starts strong with all the characters arriving at the resort and interacting with the totally creepy resort staff — there’s a particular moment that occurs between Frances and a masseuse that’s so eerie and fantastic — however the book just doesn’t go anywhere. All of the plot points and twists fell completely flat and there way no payoff for the plot lines Moriarty was laying down. In a way, this book felt very much like a rough draft that needed a few rounds of solid edits — there was so much lost potential!
The book shifts perspective constantly and I found it tough to really connect with the characters. With nine guests and three members of staff, there are just too many points of view and the book feels disjointed and disconnected. The only redeeming part of this book is Frances — this is probably because we spend the most time in her point of view. She easily has the best characterization, backstory, and motivations and is therefore the most engaging character in the whole cast, despite the fact that others had so much potential to be interesting too. I thought that some of the other were just not compelling or fell into stereotypes that just didn’t work. 11 out of 12 characters were uninteresting, which was just so disappointing.
What I wanted and expected from Nine Perfect Strangers was a thrilling condemnation of our perceptions of others and the dieting/health industry. I wanted stereotypes flipped on their heads and larger-than-life characters, I wanted brilliant twists and turns and revelations. Moriarty did a great job of this in Big Little Lies, but completely missed the mark in Nine Perfect Strangers. Sadly, this is one to skip.
CW: every kind of shaming imaginable, suicide, grief
Want to try Nine Perfect Strangers for yourself? You can pick up a copy at the following sites (affiliate links):