Title: The Truth About Her
Author: Jacqueline Maley
Published: April 7th 2021
Publisher: 4th Estate AU – HarperCollins Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 stars
How can you write other people’s stories, when you won’t admit the truth of your own? An absorbing, moving, ruefully tender, witty and wise novel of marriage, motherhood and the paths we navigate through both, for fans of Ann Patchett and Anne Tyler.
‘I loved The Truth About Her. It’s an intelligent, compelling, nuanced tale of guilt, culpability, pride, shame and atonement. But most of all, it’s a love letter to daughters, from the mothers who raise them. An astoundingly good debut.’ Annabel Crabb
Journalist and single mother Suzy Hamilton gets a phone call one summer morning, and finds out that the subject of one of her investigative exposes, 25-year-old wellness blogger Tracey Doran, has killed herself overnight. Suzy is horrified by this news but copes in the only way she knows how – through work, mothering, and carrying on with her ill-advised, tandem affairs.
The consequences of her actions catch up with Suzy over the course of a sticky Sydney summer. She starts receiving anonymous vindictive letters and is pursued by Tracey’s mother wanting her, as a kind of rough justice, to tell Tracey’s story, but this time, the right way.
A tender, absorbing, intelligent and moving exploration of guilt, shame, female anger, and, in particular, mothering, with all its trouble and treasure, The Truth About Her is mostly though a story about the nature of stories – who owns them, who gets to tell them, and why we need them. An entirely striking, stylish and contemporary novel, from a talented new writer.
An award-winning columnist and journalist Jacqueline Maley makes her debut in the contemporary fiction field with her first novel, The Truth About Her. A story of motherhood, relationships, family, love, impressions and truths, this is an observant novel penned by an emerging voice in Australian fiction.
The Truth About Her follows the life of Suzy Hamilton, a journalist who is confronted with a harsh reality in relation to one of her previous stories. This single mother must contend with the fallout from the death of one of her stories, a wellness blogger has taken her own life following the publication of Suzy’s revealing article on her complicated life. This comes as quite a shock to the dedicated journalist, but the struggle of her family responsibilities, work and ill-fated love choices plunges this journalist into a world she now seems to have little control over. The Truth About Her closely follows Suzy’s unravelling as she deals with the aftermath of Tracey Doran’s death. Things spiral out of control for Suzy when she begins to receive some threatening letters, then Tracey’s mother comes onto the scene, demanding that Suzy report her daughter’s story in an alternative light. Jacqueline Maley’s first novel is a journey into the complex reality of truth, lies, stories, ownership and self-worth.
It is always great to see a new author bounce onto the Australian contemporary fiction scene. The Truth About Her held much promise for me. I was keen to see how this respected journalist would delve into a fictional story based around the profession she knows so well – journalism. The reporting world is a difficult one, rife with issues of integrity, truth, lies and more, the list could go on! It was exciting to see an author take a critical gaze on this profession.
Maley’s writing is poised and assured. When this book opens, the reader is thrown into the fast-paced chaos of the situation at hand. However, the pace seems to dip a bit after the first third of the book and then it ramps up again to the conclusion. This did unsettle me a bit, it felt a bit like a bumpy ride and I wasn’t sure where Maley was directing me to travel. The Truth About Her offers the reader a rich character-based study. Maley is dedicated to exploring her characters inside and out. However, I will be honest and admit I felt some distance between the cast and me as the reader for the duration of The Truth About Her. As a result, I’m still struggling to align my thoughts on this one.
Maley offers up a good interrogation of a range of topical themes. From marriage, parenting, motherhood, relationships between parents and their children, blame, guilt, regret, despair, ill choices, devastating loss and the overarching theme of media reporting. The Truth About Her navigates some expansive territory. The ending was composed well and the story did conclude on a plausible note.
There are many workable elements to The Truth About Her that will appeal readers. I’m still deciding on how I feel about this debut set piece, I think I will linger on it a little longer.
The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley was published on 7th April 2021 by 4th Estate AU – HarperCollins Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Truth About Her, Jacqueline Maley visit here.
*Thanks extended to HarperCollins Books Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Truth About Her is book #51 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge