I was an audiobook virgin when another book blogger mentioned them on Facebook. I commented that I hadn’t tried audiobooks and wasn’t sure they were for me. She’d won a stack of books in a competition and her prize sponsor, Bolinda, responded to my comment, saying if I sent them my details they’d send through a trial pack.
They didn’t know I was a book blogger, so there was no expectation… just the offer to try it out. Several CDs arrived only days later offering a few free recordings, and of particular interest to me was Liane Moriarty’s 2011 novel, The Hypnotist’s Love Story.
I’d only recently (and belatedly) read the much-lauded Big Little Lies, so was keen for more from the popular Aussie author.
The Hypnotist's Love Story
by Liane Moriarty
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia
on December 13th, 2011
Source: Bolinda Audio
Genres: Literary Fiction
As a hypnotherapist, Ellen helps her clients deal with all sorts of unusual problems. So when she finds out that her new boyfriend, Nathan / Patrick, is being stalked by his ex-lover, she's not worried at all; in fact, she's rather curious and wishes she could sit down with Saskia to have a good chat about it all.
No one grows up dreaming of becoming a stalker. It's not a life ambition or game plan. It just sort of... happens. At least that's Saskia's story and she's sticking with it. And she's determined not to be left behind by Nathan / Patrick and Ellen's new love.
Ellen's wish to counsel Saskia comes true in a way she could never have predicted - Saskia has been masquerading as a new client...
I enjoyed Big Little Lies, but less than most. When I finally read and reviewed it I admired Moriarty’s writing and commented that my own appreciation was most likely muted by my own expectations (unreasonably heightened after hearing about this book for years); and my inability to relate to some of the scenarios in the novel.
The Hypnotist’s Love Story is only the second Moriarty novel I’ve read and I’m both happy and dismayed it was the book fated to break my audiobook cherry.
Firstly, I might never have read it if I hadn’t received the free audiobook. That particular novel by Moriarty wasn’t even on my radar. So… that’s the happy part. As for the dismay… this book was so beautifully written I kept regretting I wasn’t visualising and committing these gorgeous words and phrases into my memory.
‘Listening’ gave me an entirely different perspective and I can only wonder how reading the same book would compare. I noticed the beautiful language and was constantly both startled and beguiled by Moriarty’s excessive use of similes and metaphors. And, I’m not saying the latter is bad. Rather, I wonder if I would have noticed / appreciated them as much if I was reading (given my tendency to skim!); as the narrator very eloquently added phrase upon descriptively poetic phrase as she shared the unfolding story.
But enough about the words… the book is written from the viewpoints of both Ellen and Saskia, and the plot itself offers something quite different: a love story set against a tale of loss and denial. Something sweet against something which could be quite ugly.
I know many have talked about their ability to forgive Saskia’s stalking and interference in the lives of Patrick, Ellen and Jack; but wondered if we’d do the same if the stalker was male and the stalkee a female? Perhaps not.
That aside, being in Saskia’s head gave us an incredible insight into her logic. She knows she should stop, but feels powerless to do so. She knows it’s wrong but is also incapable of understanding the impact it has on Patrick (and Jack). She doesn’t mean them harm but doesn’t want to lose them from her life. She really has no intention of trying to ruin Patrick and Ellen’s burgeoning relationship… rather she often speaks about wanting to be a fly on the wall and know what they are doing. She just wants to be part of their lives.
Saskia talks a lot about about her pain – expectations she had for her life which haven’t eventuated etc – and I guess I could relate to some of that.
Similarly it was easy to get inside Ellen’s head. She’s exceedingly introspective (and coming from me that’s saying something!). It was quite wonderful to be privy to her thoughts, and her honesty is such that occasionally one feels slightly voyeuristic. But in a good way. :-\
Moriarty does a wonderful job with both women.
Ultimately this novel is about relationships and love. In addition to the Ellen / Patrick / Saskia bermuda triangle, there’s Patrick’s wife (who died when Jack was a baby), and Ellen wonders if she can compete with her intangible presence.
But there’s also an overarching sense of loss. Very early on Ellen considers her past relationships and is bemused at the idea we can wake up with someone every day and know everything they’re doing; and the next minute they’ve gone and we know nothing about their lives.
And this of course is Saskia’s issue. Stalking aside… there’s a conundrum to be pondered given she spent three years as a mother to (then 2yr old) Jack, only to break up with his father and lose all contact.
On the audio front
This was beautifully narrated by Caroline Lee. As I said, it was my first audiobook so took some getting used to – particularly because Lee speaks so properly and clearly. It also took some time to acclimatise myself to her different tones and voices when representing different characters, but she did a great job without going over-the-top. As we were in both Saskia and Ellen’s head there were a few times I had to focus on ‘who’ was speaking.
I’ve driven more in the past month or so than I’ve driven in years… so this book came at the perfect time. Indeed, I’ve had several 3-4hr drives which have flown by because I’ve been engrossed in the story – while still able to focus on the expansive road ahead.
My only negative about this book is that it felt long…. 480 pages (16hrs 39mins).
And – a complete aside – and I googled this but found no reference…. The book blurb refers to the male lead as Nate, but in my audio version he was Patrick. I swear I wasn’t hallucinating that! #WTF?!
Are you a Liane Moriarty fan?
Any ideas why Nate became Patrick?