Sunday, 18 March 2018

Book Review: The Last Anniversary

I’ve read so many novels by Liane Moriarty now that I’m not even surprised that I enjoyed this one; although I admit that I was drawn in pretty quickly by the interesting title and equally interesting blurb. Sophie has spent years wondering if she did the right thing by dumping the nicest guy that she’s ever dated, just as he was planning a romantic getaway to propose to her (ironically, he is now married to someone else and completely out of her life). Unsurprisingly, it comes as a shock when he suddenly gets back in touch to let her know that his Great-Grandmother Connie, has died and left Sophie her house. Thomas is genuinely happy for Sophie, but his sister, Veronika is not so enamoured with the results of Connie’s will. Sophie has no idea how complicated her life is going to become as she prepares to move onto Scribby Gum Island and fit herself into Thomas’ rather large family. No other families live on the Island, only the Doughty family since their ancestors won a bet to own it. The Island is home to one of Australia’s most famous unsolved mysteries; a mystery that Sophie herself loved as she grew up, visiting the Island countless times to see the mysterious elements of it.

The mystery surrounding the Island is the ‘Munro Baby’, also known as Grandma Enigma. Sisters Connie and Rose we’re heading to tea at the house of Alice and Jack Munro to find that they had disappeared from the cottage and left their baby in the cot - a baby that is now in her seventies. The sisters turned the mystery into an elaborate business venture, with guided tours of the Island the cottage, left in its original state and various items that can be bought from their gift shop. As the family has grown, more of them have coupled up and started families, but all of them contribute to the annual anniversary of the mystery; a massive party with face painting, food and drink and other entertainment for adults, children and anyone who is curious about the mystery. This years anniversary has more pressure than ever, due to wanting to live up to Connie’s memory; the sister who had the most vision for the business that came alongside of the mystery. The Munro Baby case was the thing that really threaded this whole story together and it added another side to the overall plot.

The other side of the plot contained so many family members, all with their stories, secrets and fears; it wasn't a surprise that it all began to unravel as the novel started to take shape. However, the characters who concerned me the most were Grace, Sophie and Thomas; all of them weren't as happy as they should be and it seemed a bit complicated. As much as Veronika had some slightly strange habits, her thirst for knowledge was pretty interesting; such as her attempts to uncover the mystery were commendable and to be honest, fairly entertaining. Sophie's incessant issue with constantly blushing made me cringe alongside her a little, too; that aside, she does seem like a good person, although the amount of bad decisions that she made and the range of situations that she found herself in drove me insane! Grace was a concern as it was clear she was suffering from some kind of undiagnosed health condition that is affecting her in all parts of her life. All of the topics covered throughout this novel are fairly modern issues, such as Post-Natal depression, marriage, children and family life, insecurity and many others. Despite there being some difficult subjects to discuss, Moriarty managed to weave these topics into her characters realistically and flawlessly.

Overall, I found this book to be fascinating. I found myself desperate to know the story behind the Munro Baby Mystery and actually it was nice that nothing was revealed until fairly late into the book as it made the book so much more interesting; although the answer was well written and delivered a lot of understanding, it was also slightly predictable, which was a little disappointing. I felt like myself and any other reader would benefit from a family tree alongside the map of the Island at the start of the book as there were so many family members once partners were included; for most books having so many characters would result in an absolute mess, but as I have read so many of Moriarty's novels now that I'm used to her way of working multiple narrators into her stories. In fact, this is what makes her books so enjoyable. I liked this novel, but I didn't love it; it had a lot of potential to be a 5 star read but honestly, there was something missing for me; the ending was a a disappointment after loving the majority of the tale, so it's a 4 star, but definitely worth a read. Families are never quite as they seem.

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