Book Report: Liane Moriarty ‘What Alice Forgot’
What Alice Forgot has previously been released under the title Unforgettable. This novel is by the Australian writer Liane Moriarty (1966), who became famous for the television series Big little lies, which is based on her book Big little lies. In What Alice Forgot, Alice loses her memory in a fall and discovers that she is not twenty-nine, but is now thirty-nine years old, which means that she has lost ten years of good and less pleasant memories. When she hears all the stories, she has the feeling that her life was not going well at all and now hopes to get a second chance to fix everything where it went wrong.
- Main characters
- Symbols and motifs
- Title statement and book cover
- Structure and perspective / way of telling
- Time and place
- Original title: What Alice forgot
- Title: What Alice forgot
- Author: Liane Moriarty
- First print: 2009
- First edition translated into Dutch: 2018
- Translation: Anna Livestro
- Number of pages: 484
- ISBN: 978 94 005 0965 8
Alice Love wakes up in the gym after taking a bad smack in the step class. Alice is especially concerned about her first baby, of which she is pregnant. To be on the safe side, she is taken to the hospital where she discovers that she has lost her memory and she has lost ten years. Because Alice is convinced that she is twenty-nine, while she will soon be forty.
She hopes her husband Nick will come and get her soon so she can forget about this bizarre day. Even though everyone makes it clear to her that it is 2008, Alice remains convinced that it is 1998. It is only when the doctor tells her that there is no heartbeat of the baby and that it is impossible that it is her first baby, since she has a scar from a caesarean section, that she starts to have doubts. If it is now 2008, then the baby is now a child of nine years. But where is it and where is Nick?
Alice looks at herself in the mirror and sees a lean and chic version of herself. In the diary she finds, she discovers that it is indeed 2008. There is also a photo from the calendar showing three children, two girls and a boy. On the back she reads Olivia, Tom and Madison Love. Alice starts to cry and cannot stop, what had happened during those ten years?
Elisabeth, Alice’s older sister, comes to the hospital to check on Alice. First she is lighthearted about the amnesia, until she realizes that Alice has really forgotten everything. For example, Elisabeth has to tell her that Alice and Nick are in divorce and that she herself has been married for several years to Ben, a man Alice never thought Elisabeth would marry him.
When Barb, Elisabeth and Alice’s mother, comes by, Alice cannot believe her eyes. She looks good and confident. Barb also has some surprising news, she has been married to Roger, Nick’s father and Alice’s future ex-father-in-law for five years. Alice is told that she and Elisabeth were pregnant together six years ago. Alice for the third time and Elisabeth for the first time after many failed attempts. Both sisters were happy, until the moment Elisabeth was told there was no heartbeat. Alice gets the feeling that she has abandoned her sister in some way, which made the contact a lot less. But Elisabeth does not want to elaborate on this.
Every now and then fragments come up, which are of no use to Alice. But with the help of her family, she learns more and more. But when the name Gina comes to mind and she asks who it is, everyone is silent. Eventually she is told that Gina was a friend and neighbor of Alice. Alice immediately makes the link with Nick, they probably had a relationship.
Elisabeth reassures Alice by saying that Gina had no relationship with Nick. She had had an accident in front of Alice last year which had made Alice very sad and a while later she and Nick had split up. What Alice does not know is that Gina was partly the reason that Elisabeth had less contact with her sister. Elisabeth had called Alice once after one of her miscarriages, but Alice was having cocktails with Gina and promised to call back the next day. Which she hadn’t done. Elisabeth wanted so badly to have a child and until now had suffered a lot and had partly lost hope. And just when she needed her sister, Alice had chosen her friend Gina. Gina came for everyone, always.
Nick and the kids
During a party she meets Dominick, who is also the principal of the school. They talk a little bit until he kisses her. Alice is not sure what to make of this, but assumes that they are a couple. But she doesn’t like that at all and she hopes that Dominick is not the reason why she and Nick are separated. When she’s alone, Alice gets very nervous about seeing Nick and the kids for the first time. She tries to act as normal as possible, but notices that Nick is very harsh and distant. Still, she tries to convince him to stay for dinner. But he reacts reluctantly until Madison points out to her brother and sister that Alice doesn’t know them at all and realizes he doesn’t want to leave her alone with the kids. Alice admits that she has forgotten things and asks the children why she and Nick are getting a divorce. She is immediately told that she and Nick argued a lot about the money she spent and Gina. Nick felt she cared about Gina more than she loved him.
In the days that follow, she gets to know her children and has to solve a crisis when Madison is suspended. When she involves Nick in this, he can no longer follow at all, he no longer recognizes her. The Alice he knows is unreasonable and very cool, while Alice is now very sweet and wants to talk to him. It does not take long before he feels attracted to her again. But he fears this will change once her memory returns. He gets right when she slowly remembers everything and she reacts to him distantly.
Some time later
But a few weeks later Alice has rediscovered herself and has found a perfect combination of her old and new life. Alice is happy, she has her life back together. The children are happy now that she and Nick are together again. And Elisabeth has also become a mother in the meantime, so the sisters and their families cannot be happier.
He is three years older than Alice. He has four sisters.
She is Alice’s sister. She is a successful speaker, happily married, with an unfulfilled desire to have children, which weighs heavily on her.
Her father passed away years ago. She’s become the kind of woman she never thought she could be: pretty, slim, and elegant.
She is Alice’s grandmother, who blogged about all her thoughts about her life and the people she loves with a few followers. In fact, she is not the biological grandmother, but she was the neighbor when Alice and Elisabeth’s father died and has taken care of the family ever since.
She is Alice and Elisabeth’s mother. She is married to Roger, Nick’s father, and they teach dance together. She is much more confident than she used to be.
Symbols and motifs
Alice cannot believe that she and Nick are in a divorce. She loves him and cannot think of a reason to divorce him. His parents themselves were divorced and he always felt bad when he heard that a couple was getting a divorce.
Elisabeth has a hard time not being able to have children, while Alice has three children, but cannot even remember them.
Elisabeth enjoys the moments with her sister. She had found her sister again and realized she had missed Alice. The fits of laughter, sharing secrets, ?? everything is possible again without thinking.
Alice remembers an incredibly beautiful time together with Nick, in which they both lived without worries. It is therefore difficult for her to hear that they are separated and that she is a completely different woman than she can remember.
Title statement and book cover
The title What Alice Forgot is a reference to the common thread in the story, Alice’s memory that doesn’t want to work. The book cover is a blue cover, with soap bubbles and the title in white. The soap bubbles can refer to how Alice feels, as if she is living in a bubble.
Structure and perspective / way of telling
The book is dedicated to Adam and consists of 484 pages, divided into 35 chapters and an epilogue. The story presents the views of Alice, which are written in the third person, and Elisabeth, Frannie, which are written in the I person.
Whatever there is, it will all be alright someday.
Time and place
The story is set in Sydney in 2008.
What Alice forgot is accessible through the smooth writing style and structure of the story. The concept of amnesia is confronting, since as a reader you realize that it must be very strange to rediscover everything, especially when you don’t even remember having children. It’s a believable story that sticks. Unfortunately, the ending is handled a bit quickly, leaving you a bit in the dark. But What Alice Forgot is certainly a feel-good novel, thanks to the humor that comes up every now and then.