Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All husbands have secrets

"She longed to feel something momentous.
Sometimes her life seemed so little."
But then again so do all wives. However, not all secrets are lethal. And that's what Cecilia Fitzpatrick is hoping is hidden inside an envelope that she stumbled upon while looking for some relic of the Berlin Wall in the attic. The envelope was tucked away with some old bills instead of with the wills her and her husband had written years before. The yellowness of it makes her think it must be an old one. But the problem is her husband isn't dead and his reaction at his wife's mentioning of the letter makes her think she was not supposed to find it. In fact, she believes her husband lied to her when she asked him about it. And he practically begged her not to open it. You *know* Cecelia will end up opening it but it takes her a long time to get there. By then we are introduced to two other women whose lives will be affected by that terrible letter.

"All these years there had been a Tupperware container of bad language in her head, and now she opened it and all those crisp, crunchy words were fresh and lovely, ready to be used."

Rachel Crowley is a very, very sad widow who after losing her daughter also lost her husband. Now the only son she has left is happily married to Lauren (whom she all but likes) and they have given Rachel a new joy in her life - little Jacob. But because Lauren is being transferred to New York the whole family will be uprooted and they will leave Melbourne. They act like it's just for two years but Rachel is crushed, believing she has nothing else to live for after Jacob is gone. And to top it all, police refuse to take her seriously when she keeps telling them who is responsible for her daughter's death.

"She had no idea that her life was so flimsily constructed, like a stack of cards, and that Rob and Lauren could march in here on a Monday night and cheerfully help themselves to the one card that mattered."

In Sydney, Tess O'Leary's life seems perfect. She has a beautiful son and a company with her husband and her best friend (and cousin) Felicity. But then her world is turned upside down by a betrayal of the worst kind and she grabs her son and flees back to her mother in Melbourne. There she crosses paths with Cecilia and Rachel as well as an old flame. Their lives begin to weave together and even though you can see it coming and you already know what the husband's secret will be before it's revealed, you want to see what will happen.

"Falling in love was easy. Anyone could fall. It was holding on that was tricky."

I sort of devoured this story even though I was annoyed by quite a few things. You see, I'm anything but a fan of hysterical women. To be fair, most of the women in the story were pushed into a situation that was not their fault. This book is moving fast on best seller lists. Inspired by real death bed confessions the story does not focus so much on the secret but on the effect it has on people who are unknowingly connected. I didn't think Tess was connected to the whole story enough and not nearly as affected by it as the other two women. The connection to Berlin Wall was also quite unnecessary and strongly exaggerated. I was however blown away by the unraveling of Cecilia and her perfect beautiful and polished life. 
And then there is an epilogue that has left readers divided. Many believe that it is over the top or perhaps that Liane Moriarty had too many ideas that she couldn't stuff into the plot. But I was mesmerized by it. It is absolutely the best part of the whole book and it will keep you reeling. And for those who hated the ending before the epilogue... What were you expecting?

Monday, September 9, 2013

There she goes...

"There she is boys, Mandy Lane. Untouched, pure. Since the dawn of junior year men have tried to possess her, and to date all have failed. Some have even died in their reckless pursuit of this angel."

There are many times in my life that I've been fooled, be it by friends, by strangers or even by misleading genre description of some movies. The word Horror is what I first laid my eyes on when I was checking All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) and that was perhaps the main reason why I decided to watch it. Little did I know that I was getting fooled with every passing minute after the movie started. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) is a high school drama involving a bunch of boys and girls who go out to a secluded ranch for a weekend during which they slowly vanish, one by one.

"You know we are all trying to get you right?"
Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is the most sought after girl in high school. All the boys want her, mostly in a sexual way as she is constantly hounded by them. She is quite reserved when it comes to interacting with boys but is close to Emmet (Michael Welch). Then due to an unfortunate event caused by him, she distances herself from him. The movie covers most of the high school life events such as boys drooling over a girl, sports, pool parties and drunken mishaps. Life goes on as usual till Mandy agrees to join five of her newly found friends to spend a weekend at a ranch. Of course, there is a lot of partying and fighting involved within the group which makes the core essence of a high school outing. The problem with all of this is that most of the characters in this movie are pretty one-dimensional and lack personality. They start to mysteriously disappear one by one and panic takes over. Garth (Anson Mount) is the ranch hand who is not particularly happy with the group's behavior but has a job to do of making sure everything is okay. With all the disappearances, the story twists to a shocking revelation. Emmet who gets sidelined earlier comes back with a major part to play.

"You seem different."
"That's because I am."
The thing about this movie is that the plot fails to convince and so does the acting which is nothing special. There might be a fairly small reward for the viewers in the form of the twist in the end otherwise it doesn't have much to offer. This is not the one that I want to complain about for a while, I think I am done with it as I finish writing this. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

When backed into a corner, what do you do?

Sometimes it's difficult to write a review of a book. Sometimes you can't wait to write it down. Literally, right after you finish, you have to share. Sometimes you need to pace around or wait till it stops stirring you up. And then sometimes you have to read it again. Not because you can't decide about the book but because it hits you so hard that you might just fall to pieces if you don't first get your head screwed back on.

Into The Darkest Corner is one of those books that shake you up. The story seems quite simple. Cathy Bailey has been enjoying the single life long enough to know a catch when she sees one. Gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous, Lee seems almost too perfect to be true. And her friends clearly agree, as each in turn falls under his spell. The story starts with a court reporter's transcript and then alternates between a time when Cathy met and fell for Lee and four years after that. It's disconcerting to see carefree and joyful Cathy rattled down to a mess of a person, wearing baggy clothes, hiding in corners, obsessively looking over her shoulder, keeping her hair short to be as unnoticeable as possible and making absolutely no friends. The once lively girl is now the neighbor no one knows anything about. The one who would never even answer the door if you needed to borrow an egg. So what went wrong?

"When I opened the front door I had that same immediate sense that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t a draught, or a smell, or anything tangible. The driveway just had my car on it, and there was no sign of Lee’s car or any other car for that matter. I just knew that someone had been in the house while I’d been out."

Lee is attentive and flattering and just a little intense at the beginning. Cathy, though slightly smothered by his possessiveness and just a little too passionate sex, manages to convince herself that he is truly just as crazy about her as it seems and that is what is making him so intense. Still, through time his controlling behavior scares her a little but her friends are too enchanted by him to believe her. Is she even right? Or is she paranoid, missing her one night stands and not willing to settle down? As Lee's grip on her life slowly becomes stronger and stronger, she is isolated from everything and everyone she knows, backed into the darkest corner she decides to do something to save herself.
But still, what is happening four years later, when she is safe from Lee, who is in prison and can't harm her? Nothing normal, especially after Cathy receives a phone call that sends her into a tailspin in which she watches her life unfold in front of her eyes, again. 

The thing about this book is that is reads like a diary of the girl whose life was shattered and the pieces that were left were not even enough to put together something that resembles a life. And the man who is at the center of her world is intense, charming, passionate, attractive and drawing her in. It's still very difficult to give this book and the story the attention they deserve. Given the fact that it's anything but easy writing a book about such topics, many have tried and failed. Well, if not failed, then succeeded lukewarmly. Brutal, heart-wrenching and harrowing book which will hook you and won't let you go till the point where you don't really care how it ends. Thankfully, the ending is almost as perfect and as believable as you could imagine. Classic.
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