Top critical review
Was disappointing as enjoyed her previous books more
December 18, 2018
This was a disappointment for me. I am not sure into which category this book falls. It is said to be a psychological thriller but it failed to thrill me. There was much emphasis on the psychological profiles of the characters, but how their emotional hang-ups were addressed was nonsensical and weird. I liked the book Secrets and Lies very much, even more than the award-winning TV series which followed.
I won’t summarize the plot as it has been very well done by other readers. I realize I am in the minority here as many praised the book highly. I believe it will be a best seller. There is already a discussion guide online for book clubs based on its content. Nine strangers visit an expensive health and wellness resort in a remote area of Australia. They may be stereotypes but are fascinating characters. They bring their foibles, insecurities, and idiosyncrasies to the resort for 10 days of pampering, massages, a healthy sparse diet when not required to fast, light exercise, yoga, and meditation.
Their reasons for visiting the health resort are many and varied: to lose weight, to overcome guilt over a family tragedy, to repair a marriage, to aim for a healthier lifestyle, to alleviate feelings of failure and despair, and even simply a restful break from a busy life.
In the beginning, there was a lot of humor in the interaction of this group of strangers. Bonding with others became difficult as there were times of enforced silence and it was forbidden to look other participants in the eye. When permitted to mingle, I enjoyed their conversations and even their arguments. I found the characters interesting, as well as getting to learn their backstories, and what they hoped to achieve to improve their lives and outlooks.
Then part way through, the story becomes bizarre. The Russian woman who owns the resort has a dark agenda. She has twisted theories on how to improve their lives. The reader becomes immersed in visions, hallucinations, and fear, which induced boredom in this reader and failed to add much to the plot.
Later the story took an unexpected turn, becoming tense and weird. It seemed that the guests’ lives might be in danger. Finally, we get some suspense and a feeling of dread.
The conclusion updated us on how these strangers were faring after their experiences at the resort. Some were able to make favourable life changes, no thanks to their regimen at the expensive spa. The story ended sweetly, all tied up with a neat ribbon and bow.