All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: You Need To Know by Nicola Moriarty

on April 22, 2021

You Need To Know
Nicola Moriarty
Harper Collins AUS
2021, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}: The holidays are here. The extended family has gathered. The cars are packed and the convoy sets off. The cottage is a few hours’ drive – but not everyone will live to see it …

For Jill, her three sons, their wives and children, a terrifying road crash will tear apart their family.

The crash will be an accident but the shattering that follows has been long coming.

Because at the heart of this family lies a secret – concealed, wrestled with, festering and harmful – and nothing now can stop it coming out.

But will any of them survive it?

I have always really enjoyed Nicola Moriarty’s novels so I knew this was definitely going to be a must-read for me. It was perfect for an afternoon curled up on the couch as this is a story that it’s easy to get lost in.

It’s told from several points of view: Jill is a relatively recent widow, who writes letters to her late husband Frank. In them she alludes to certain things, things that she’s reluctant to dive into or examine too deeply. Jill and Frank had three sons together: their oldest Tony, was an accountant who recently sold a novel for a large amount of money and it’s tipped to be a best-seller. He’s married to Andrea, a teacher and they enjoy a childfree life by choice (or do they?). Middle child Pete has been married to Mimi for a long time. They have a 16yo daughter, an 8yo daughter and recently welcomed twins after Pete convinced Mimi for “just one more”. They got 2 girls instead of Pete’s longed for boy and things aren’t working out exactly as Mimi hoped. She’s worried about her oldest daughter, who is completely disengaged. Her middle daughter seems to have left her childhood behind to help parent the twins. Mimi finds herself reaching for the wineglass a lot these days. And youngest son Darren is struggling with his second novel and a break up when his ex asks him a very complex question…..

The whole family are gathering to head to Jill’s beach house, which is where they’ll spend Christmas. The book begins with an incident from that trip and then goes back in time to show how everyone got to the place they were in at the beginning and I loved the way this was told! Especially the snapshots of the “current” time which are told from the differing perspectives of strangers as they come across it. During the main bulk of the story we are treated to the points of view of Mimi, Jill, Andrea and Darren which fleshes out the entire family and the differing relationships within it. All of the sons are involved in creative pursuits: Pete has written children’s stories for many years and his wife Mimi illustrates them. Darren wrote a book that was expected to do well but tanked and was the recipient of a savage review and now he’s completely blocked on his second novel because of it. Tony, always a numbers man, surprised the family when he sold a manuscript no one was aware he was working on, for an exorbitant amount. Mimi has been in the family a long time, close to 20 years whereas Andrea is much newer. Darren is the only brother unmarried, still mourning the demise of his most recent relationship although he and his ex are still friends, Darren still harbours the hope that she’ll realise she made a mistake and they can reconcile, even though deep down, he knows it’s futile.

I thought Moriarty built the tension and suspense expertly here, in terms of leading up to the dramatic event. Everything is timed perfectly to come to a head as the family sets off in many separate cars, but travelling together in a convoy. Some of the struggles the characters are dealing with are not a secret – such as, for example, the reliance Mimi is coming to have on alcohol to simply get her through the day. I know there’s a lot of jokes and the like about “wine time” for mums and how many cannot wait to get the kids off to bed to get stuck into a glass to relax and unwind after a busy day. But for Mimi, it’s becoming much more than that and no one really seems to be noticing, especially husband Pete. Even after several close incidents (such as seeing a booze bus when giving her teen daughter a driving lesson, etc) isn’t really enough for Mimi to do anything more than think about it. For Andrea, meeting a neighbour has made her question the life she’s chosen for herself and she’s wondering just how much input she had in the decisions she and Tony made “as a couple”. I also enjoyed the scenes from Jill’s point of view as she worries about her children, their partners, her grandchildren and laments the loss of her husband as well as the feelings of guilt she has about it. When the story unfolds, it becomes obvious why Jill makes some of the choices she does and why she insists on certain things.

This was a highly enjoyable family drama with plenty of twists and turns in the story, some of which the reader was expecting and others that were more of a shock as they unfolded. I was invested in so many of the characters and wanted to learn how certain things were going to affect them all, once revealed. And I really did enjoy the switching back and forth of the time/perspective, that I felt, created a clever sense of urgency, with the characters being so unaware of what was coming but the reader was not.

Another fantastic read.


Book #62 of 2021

You Need To Know is the 27th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021

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