Thursday, 23 March 2017
The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
Joni drummed her fingers on the bench top as she waited while Trina tightened her laces. She’d been up since 5 am, unable to sleep, still feeling uneasy about what had happened at the pub the previous evening.
As soon as Trina’d emerged from her bedroom, Joni had pounced on her. ‘Come for a run with me! I need to get out.’
Trina had shrugged and agreed and Joni had immediately dressed in fluoro striped leggings and Nike singlet, while Trina changed into a much more casual outfit of casual tracksuit pants and an old t-shirt.
‘One sec,’ said Trina, as she stood up from doing her laces and then headed around to the kitchen to grab a glass of water and wash down a tablet before she and Joni headed off.
commentary: My book selection skills have been a bit off lately – I feel I’ve said several times, politely, ‘this was not the book for me, but others will probably love it’. And here we go again.
This time it was a definite category error: I thought this was a crime novel. My bad. The story, set in Australia deals with four young women, friends since school, who go on a weekend away and make a plan to each write a letter revealing a secret. The four letters are written, and discussed and pored over – but it turns out there is a fifth letter, with much deeper and darker revelations, and the question is: which of the women wrote it? A good setup – but I thought this would be a proper thriller, with a crime either lost in the past or else brought on by the whole letter business. But that isn’t really the case. The book is pretty much unabashed chicklit: it’s about relationships and feelings and friendships, and about the scars and traumas of childhood.
I thought it was a big error for us to see the action through the eyes of one of the women, because that knocked her out as a possible writer of the fifth letter, and reduced the tension. And there was a lack of balance, an unevenness about the book – some matters were taken seriously and others dismissed too easily. The actions of some of the women seemed very strange, and they all seemed rather dim, and they didn’t in fact seem to like each other all that much.
But Moriarty kept the story going, it was certainly an easy read, and it was all rounded off at the end. But I didn’t believe a word of it. (Not necessarily a deal breaker.)
Not to make too much of this – it’s plain that Nicola Moriarty is the sister of blog favourite Liane Moriarty. It would be unfair to compare the two writers – especially as, despite superficial similarities, their books are quite different.