Comparing The Undoing and You Should Have Known

Caught up in the new HBO series The Undoing with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, I could not remember much about it, despite  having read the book it was based on, You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz when it was first published.   Remembering the plot of a book I’d read five years ago was improbable for me;  I had the haunting feeling the young son had done it, but that could have been the plot of a number of books I’ve read since then.

Then I saw an interview with one of the lead actors on the Stephen Colbert Late Show. An older Hugh Grant was still handsome with the well modulated voice of British wealth and privilege; I knew him from romantic leads like Notting Hill but I also remembered his villainous role in Paddington 2. When Grant spoke of what Colbert referred to uncomfortably as “Barbie porn,” Hugh Grant’s suave demeanor suddenly morphed into a smarmy character. He was good at pretending; maybe he was the killer.

Since I couldn’t wait for the episodes teasing me each week with cliff-hangers, I decided to buy the ebook (now only $7.99) and find out for myself.  As is usually the case, the book was so much better.  I recognized the major constructs in the film, finding many conveniently changed, but curiously, Nicole Kidman’s character, Grace, the psychotherapist, was the focus.  Her husband, played by Hugh Grant, was never on stage.  The reader discovers him through Grace, through his fellow doctors, and by innuendo.

In the HBO series, the plot becomes a mystery thriller, chasing down red herrings, looking for the killer.  Most of the books’s tension is changed from introspection, betrayal, and self discovery to the thrill of discovering whodunit.

I won’t spoil the ending of the book for you, but if you are not an HBO fan or have not begun to watch the series, renamed The Undoing, do yourself a favor and read the book first.

I’ll keep watching The Undoing; it has the same delicious thrill as Big Little Lies with the same writer, David E. Kelley, adapting the book for the screen.  Maybe he changed the ending.

Liane Moriarty

With a mix of Sophie Kinsella, Maria Semple, and a little Sherlock Homes (with a nod to the Professor Moriarty), Liane Moriarty always delivers a satisfying story.  She is on the list of authors whose next books I anticipate as soon as the last is read.

Currently, the new HBO series – Big Little Lies – has a cast of well-known women, including Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, telling the tale of murder and ambition, with a sprinkling of self-doubt, and a large dose of bullying.  Thankfully, I forget most of the details of a book after I’ve read it – clearing my synapses for the next round of fiction – yet, watching the story unfold, I am grateful for having read the book first.  The vague flashbacks and inner thoughts in the televised version seem to make more sense.  I remember enough of the action and characters to be familiar but I do not remember the ending.   Like all her books, this one will be a surprise – again.

Happily, I found one of Moriarty’s earlier books on my shelf.  The Last Anniversary has all those familiar qualities  – romance and adventure, women working through issues, and a cliff-hanging mystery.  Two women, Connie and Rose, find a surprise when they accept an invitation to tea at the Munro house.  In addition to the warm marble cake on the table and the bloodstains on the floor, they find a baby girl.  They decide to name her Enigma and raise her as their own in their small town of Scribbly Gum Island.

The story revolves around the Munro Baby mystery and Sophie, a thirty-nine year ex-girlfriend who unexpectedly inherits the house from Connie; Enigma is now a grandmother, and the town mystery has become a tourist attraction.  Secrets are important in Moriarty’s books and every character in this story seems to have one.  Like all her books, The Last Anniversary is a page turner, and just when all the secrets seem to have been revealed, Moriarty adds one more on the last page.

Have you read Moriarty’s books?  Here is a list of my reviews: