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What Alice Forgot
Liane Moriarty - Author
£7.99

Book: Paperback | 129 x 198mm | 528 pages | ISBN 9780141043760 | 16 Jan 2014 | Penguin
What Alice Forgot

Remember the woman you used to be ...

Alice is twenty-nine. She is whimsical, optimistic and adores sleep, chocolate, her ramshackle new house and her wonderful husband Nick. What's more, she's looking forward to the birth of the 'Sultana' - her first baby.

But now Alice has slipped and hit her head in her step-aerobics class and everyone's telling her she's misplaced the last ten years of her life.

In fact, it would seem that Alice is actually thirty-nine and now she loves schedules, expensive lingerie, caffeine and manicures. She has three children and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick. In fact, he looks at her like she's his worst enemy. What's more, her beloved sister Elisabeth isn't speaking to her either. And who is this 'Gina'everyone is so carefully trying not to mention?

Alice isn't sure that she likes life ten years on. Every photo is another memory she doesn't have and nothing makes sense. Just how much can happen in a decade? Has she really lost her lovely husband for ever?

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"What Alice Forgot grabbed me on the first page and pulled me into Alice's life. She is strong, wounded, determined, and living a mystery. There is tender love entwined with poignant loss, magical confusion reminiscent of another Alice and her wonderland."
– Luanne Rice

"Heartfelt, witty, and thought-provoking, What Alice Forgot is a story you'll remember long after you turn the last page."
– Jennifer Crusie

"I loved this book. It has, for me, everything that makes a good novel excellent: A delightful protagonist and her equally delightful love trying to overcome obstacles they do not fully understand; several fascinating families all jumbled into an iconoclastic mix; good friends and peculiar neighbors and difficult children and wonderfully loving relationships. What Alice Forgot is a read I will not forget and will recommend for a long time."
– Jeanne Ray

She was floating, arms outspread, water lapping her body, breathing in a summery fragrance of salt and coconut. There was a pleasantly satisfied breakfast taste in her mouth of bacon and coffee and possibly croissants. She lifted her chin and the morning sun shone so brightly on the water she had to squint through spangles of light to see her feet in front of her. Her toenails were each painted a different colour. Red. Gold. Purple. Funny. The nail polish hadn’t been applied very well. Blobby and messy. Someone else was floating in the water right next to her. Someone she liked a lot, who made her laugh, with toenails painted the same way. The other person waggled their multicoloured toes at her companionably, and she was filled with sleepy contentment. Somewhere in the distance a man’s voice shouted, ‘Marco?’
and a chorus of children’s voices cried back, ‘Polo!’ The man called out again, ‘Marco, Marco, Marco?’ and the voices answered, ‘Polo, Polo, Polo!’ A child laughed; a long, gurgling giggle, like a stream of soap bubbles. A voice said quietly and insistently in her ear, ‘Alice?’ and she tipped back her head and let the cool water slide silently over her face. Tiny dots of light danced before her eyes. Was it a dream or a memory?

‘I don’t know!’ said a frightened voice. ‘I didn’t see it happen!’

No need to get your knickers in a knot.

The dream or memory or whatever it was dissolved and vanished like a reflection on water and instead fragments of thought began to drift through her head, as if she was waking up from a long, deep sleep, late on a Sunday morning.

Is cream cheese considered a soft cheese?
It’s not a hard cheese.
It’s not . . .
. . . hard at all.
So, logically, you would think . . .
. . . something.
Something logical.
Lavender is lovely.
Logically lovely.
Must prune back the lavender!
I can smell lavender.
No, I can’t.
Yes, I can.


That’s when she noticed the pain in her head for the first time. It hurt on one side, a lot, as if someone had given her a good solid thwack with a hammer. Her thoughts sharpened. What was this pain in the head all about? Nobody had warned her about pain in her head. She had a whole list of peculiar symptoms to be prepared
for: heartburn, a taste like aluminium foil in your mouth, dizziness, extreme tiredness – but nothing about a hammering ache at the side of your head. That one should really have been mentioned, because it was very painful. Of course, if she couldn’t handle a run-of-the-mill headache, well then . . .

The scent of lavender seemed to be coming and going, like a gentle breeze.

She let herself drift again. 

The best thing would be to fall back asleep and return to that lovely dream with the water and the multicoloured toenails.

Actually, maybe someone had mentioned headaches and she forgot? Yes, they had! Headaches, for heaven’s sake! Really bad ones. Fabulous. So much to remember. No soft cheeses or smoked salmon or sushi because of the risk of that disease she had never even known existed. Listeria. Something to do with bacteria. Hurts the baby. That’s why you weren’t allowed to eat leftovers. One bite of a leftover chicken drumstick could kill the baby. The brutal responsibilities of parenthood. For now, she would just go back to sleep. That was the best thing.

Listeria.
Wisteria.
The wisteria over the side fence is going to look stunning if it ever gets
round to flowering.
Listeria, wisteria.
Ha. Funny words.

She smiled, but her head really did hurt a lot. She was trying to be brave.

‘Alice? Can you hear me?’

The lavender smell got stronger again. A bit sickly-sweet. Cream cheese is a spreadable cheese. Not too soft, not too hard, just right. Like the baby bear’s bed.

‘Her eyelids are fluttering. Like she’s dreaming.’

It was no use. She couldn’t get back to sleep, even though she felt exhausted, as if she could sleep for ever. Were all pregnant women walking around with aching heads like this? Was the idea to toughen them up for labour pains? When she got up she would check it out in one of the baby books.

She always forgot how pain was so upsetting. Cruel. It hurt your feelings. You just wanted it to stop, please, right now. Epidurals were the way to go. One epidural for my headache, please. Thank you. 

‘Alice, try to open your eyes.’

Was cream cheese even cheese? You didn’t put a dollop of cream cheese on a cheese platter. Maybe cheese didn’t actually mean cheese in the context of cream cheese. She wouldn’t ask the doctor about it, just in case it was an embarrassing ‘Oh, Alice’ mistake.

She couldn’t get comfortable. The mattress felt like cold concrete. If she wriggled across, she could nudge Nick with her foot until he sleepily rolled over and pulled her to him in a big warm bear hug. Her human hot-water bottle. Where was Nick? Had he already got up? Maybe he was making her a cup of tea.

‘Don’t try to move, Alice. Just stay still and open your eyes, sweetie.’

Elisabeth would know about the cream cheese. She’d snort in her big-sisterly way and be precise. Mum wouldn’t have a clue. She’d be stricken. She’d say, ‘Oh dear, oh no! I’m sure I ate soft cheeses when I was pregnant with you girls! They didn’t know about that sort of thing back then.’ She’d talk on and on and worry that Alice had accidentally broken a rule. Mum believed in rules. So did Alice, actually. Frannie wouldn’t know, but she’d research it proudly, using her new computer, in the same way that she used to help Alice and Elisabeth find information for school projects in her Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Her head really did hurt.

Presumably this was only the squidgiest fraction of how much labour would hurt. So that was just great. It was not as if she’d actually eaten any cream cheese that she could remember.

‘Alice? Alice!’

She didn’t even really like cream cheese.

‘Has someone called an ambulance?’

There was that smell of lavender again.

Lydia Newhouse, editor of Women's Fiction, on What Alice Forgot:

Where were you ten years ago? Ten years ago it was the year 2000 and I was eighteen.  Major obsessions of mine were my Buffalo trainers (looking back, these were a major fashion mistake given that I’ve got size 8 feet …) and, embarrassingly, my guitar teacher. 

That all seems a very long time ago now and an awful lot has changed since then.  I’m pleased to report that I’m not still obsessed with my guitar teacher and I’ve got a bit better at choosing flattering footwear.

But after reading WHAT ALICE FORGOT I began to wonder what my seventeen year old self would make of the person I am now and what would happen, if, one day, I woke up and couldn’t remember all the things that have happened to me in the last ten years?

Thirty-nine-year-old Alice Love goes to her usual Thursday step-aerobics class, falls over, hits her head and forgets a whole decade of her life. 

When she comes round, thinking she is 29, everything has changed. Now, 39 year old Alice has expensive lace-edged underwear and not faded pants with hippos on them.  It would seem that she’s a lady now with a beautiful manicure and washboard stomach.  Maybe thirty-nine isn’t quite so bad after all.

But it is confusing. Alice just needs to talk to lovely Nick, her gorgeous husband . They can laugh about all this weirdness together, they’re always laughing.  Except Nick doesn’t want to speak to her and when he does speak to her he looks at her like she’s his worst enemy.  And when she opens her wallet a photo of three children falls out.  Her children.  Children she can’t even remember having.

Yes, it would seem that Alice Love is now a grown-up, a skinny mother-of-three, in the middle of a rather nasty divorce.  Is this really what her life has come to?

Maybe Elisabeth can help.  Her beloved big sister, they’ve always been close. But something terrible has happened to Elizabeth.  She’s broken and angry and she’s hardly speaking to Alice.

Has Alice let everyone down in the last ten years?  Has she lost both Elizabeth and Nick?  How on earth can Alice look after three children she doesn’t know?
Alice doesn’t know much these days.  She doesn’t know about Botox and Googling and why her husband and sister don’t seem to love her anymore.

It would seem that Alice is going to have accept that the person she has become over the last ten years isn’t actually a very nice one.

And as Alice faces the enormity of all the things that have happened to her over the last ten years, will she realise that sometimes, her younger, sillier, twenty-nine-year-old self made a very good point and that you should never lose sight of the people that you love?

WHAT ALICE FORGOT is a novel with a tremendous heart about the enormity of the things that can happen to a person in ten years.  It’s a story about mothers and daughters, sisters and friends, husbands and wives and how you should never lose sight of the people that you love and the person that you used to be.

 


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