Your Preview Verdict: The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley

Your Preview Verdict: The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley

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.

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.

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

Jacqueline Maley’s The Truth About Her is an intriguing exploration of the nature of truth, power, the narrative voice, motherhood and feminism, with well-drawn characters and set in the familiar surroundings of Sydney. A fabulous debut novel, highly recommended. Thanks to Better Reading for the advance copy! J, VIC, 5 Stars

The Truth About Her is a very well-written novel. Such attention to detail kept me enthralled. I found Jan especially interesting and the twist in the story that I didn’t see coming. The author covers so many topics that are relevant to the reader, unspoken problems in many marriages, love and guilt. A story that will touch readers’ hearts. Judy, WA, 5 Stars

This book was simply delightful and wholesome! Grow with Suzy whilst she navigates her life as a working, single parent approaching 40. Making mistakes and trying to deal with them head on, this is a relatable and charming tale of consequences of action, of cause and effect and a happy ending in sight for our heroine. There is a lot of healing in several layers of this book which is beautifully written and I am hopeful that a sequel follows to give us that closure! Mercury, NSW, 5 Stars

So many different topical subjects are woven into this story, blended superbly and each given space and consideration. A story about guilt and blame, but also a story about love, self-awareness and improbable friendships. I was hooked right from the start – an incredible debut novel. Anna, QLD, 5 Stars

The Truth About Her is excellent, thoughtful and observational, without ever being stuffy. Maley has done an excellent job of depicting small, telling moments about parenthood: the small joys that can make your day, the frequent sense of guilt, the odd things you do to protect your child from knowledge of particular things. Suzy is an adult person in her own right, with her own needs and desires. She wants to chase her dreams, but in a way that’s balanced with her daughter’s needs. Maley also does a fantastic job of portraying Suzy’s inner life, with her insecurities and uncertainties about some things and confidence about others. Suzy is a realistic and sympathetic character, even if some of her actions will make you roll your eyes. The novel explores both how other people perceive us, and our self-image, and how the two mesh – or not. It’s not a hard read, but it’s dense and demands you read slowly and thoughtfully. I recommend it to anyone interested in stories with strong characters, one foot firmly grounded in reality, and which might provoke some self-examination. Lorraine, ACT, 5 Stars

Suzy Hamilton, a single parent investigative journalist of somewhat fluid morals, acts on a tip-off and writes an exposé of a lifestyle and wellness blogger who then subsequently commits suicide. Life for Suzy then begins to unravel. As much as I personally found Suzy not very likeable, I was intrigued by the topical plot and keen to read on, albeit with some anxiety as to what may transpire. The writing was intelligent, nuanced, and with wonderful, occasionally extremely humorous, observations. Thanks to Better Reading for the opportunity to read an engrossing novel of actions, their consequences, maternal responsibility, guilt, shame, trolling, bullying and the numerous uncertainties of life. I look forward to reading more from this author. Pamela, SA, 5 Stars

I recently had the pleasure of reading Jacqueline Maley’s debut novel The Truth About Her. It was an interesting look at the breakdown of relationships and balancing single motherhood with a career and dating again, with a little bit of suspense thrown in. I found it well written, well-paced, with tension building slowly so you don’t realise it’s happening at first. Maley writes a convincing internal monologue of a modern woman, with quite a few thoughts of the main character, Suzy, being very relatable as a parent myself. It’s a good read and I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a little bit of fun, out of the box romance and a little bit of mystery all rolled into a single novel. Shontel, NSW, 5 Stars

From the 1st page to the last, I couldn’t put this book down. As a woman, I could relate so much to the guilt we can all feel when we don’t conform to the norms expected of us. This book addresses the reality of women, their emotions, in what can sometimes be really complex lives. Despite this, the delivery is subtle whilst blending this all into the mystery of the book. This is one of the best reads I’ve had a in a long time, highly recommend it! Debbie, VIC, 5 Stars

This debut novel from an acclaimed journalist is beautifully written and very moving. Suzy Hamilton is a single mother and successful journalist with two lovers. Everything changes when one of the subjects of her investigative exposés, Tracey Doran, kills herself and another sues for defamation. When her own sex scandal is exposed, Suzy loses her job and lovers. Struggling with an uncertain future, worrying about keeping a roof over her head and caring for her daughter, she begins working at a local bar and taking on a variety of freelance writing jobs. After several meetings with Tracey’s mother, Jan, she agrees to “tell the truth about her” by writing a biography. As Suzy learns more about Tracey and Jan, she reflects on her own relationships with her parents and ex-husband. She struggles with her daughter at times and the scenes where Maddy comforts Suzy are just beautiful. In the background, her younger lover Tom is still very much in her thoughts. Sarah, NSW, 5 Stars

The Truth About Her is told from the perspective of Suzy Hamilton, a journalist whose life changes after the suicide of a wellness blogger she has just featured in an expose. I loved the exploration of her relationships with the different people in her life – particularly her daughter Maddy. A well-written novel that had me hooked from start to finish. Charlotte, NSW, 5 Stars

This book was a winner for me from page one. Suzy, a mother to a little Maddy and a journalist who has just finished a piece on a fraudulent wellbeing guru – Tracey Doran. Everything seems to be going well until news of Tracey’s death hits. Suzy’s life goes from messy to complete meltdown almost overnight. Was her article the reason Tracey killed herself, was there more behind this woman than meets the eye, and why is her mother stalking her? The intertwined plots of several characters keep you wanting more and you’re never sure which way things will go until you turn the page again. This was a great read, one that was easy to relax with in a comfy chair in the morning or snuggled up on the couch at night. I would definitely recommend this book to others – one for those interested in a light bit of mystery and suspense. Suzie, WA, 5 Stars

I really enjoyed The Truth About Her. The main character, Suzy Hamilton, is relatable in so many ways. Jacqueline Maley perfectly captures the journey of a single mother who is trying to juggle all the responsibilities of being a parent, work, deal with residual emotions from her marriage and subsequent breakdown as well as the rest of life’s challenges in the best way she can. Suzy’s story begins with the death of a healthy living influencer, Tracey Doran, who suicides as a result of an expose that she has written. Although the article is factual, it leads to Suzy experiencing the negative side of being a reporter. As her affair with her boss is exposed, she loses her job and it appears as if Suzy is on a downward spiral. This leads her to explore other avenues of work and to Jan, Tracey Doran’s mother, who wants Suzy to atone for her daughter’s death by writing a positive memoir for her. It is hard not to feel for Suzy as she is going through this journey. I highly recommend this book as it engages you to the very last page. Wendy, WA, 5 Stars

The book starts as quite a lighthearted story but there are underlying heavy emotional elements that make you not want to put the book down. The way the author describes things almost makes you feel like you can smell the timber of the old house, feel the stickiness of the bar. I loved it! I’d like a sequel to see where Suzy ends up. Kay, QLD, 5 Stars

This was a fascinating, compelling read that left me thinking deeply about the stories we tell ourselves and others, the nature of truth and how these impact our relationships. I initially found Suzy an unlikeable narrator but discovered that she grew on me as I read. Eventually, I found myself not only liking Suzy and rooting for her, but also beginning to understand the very human failings and foibles that were behind some of her most questionable decisions. Similarly, Jan first came across as pitiable but ultimately unsympathetic (a perception enhanced by knowing her through Suzy’s descriptive lens) only to evolve into a gloriously real and multifaceted portrait of a mother in mourning. Maley’s characters – even those who flit through the story but briefly – are all fully realised, beautifully described and so real that you’re left feeling as though you really met them. The sense of a Sydney summer is evocatively conjured and the city itself is so perfectly described that it is almost another character itself. The writing is precise and beautiful; it will break your heart but eventually leave you buoyed by hope. This story has stayed with me and will for a long time yet. Samantha, VIC, 5 Stars

The Truth About Her is about Suzy, who is at a crossroads in her life, one that she has been avoiding but is essentially forced into by a number of coinciding circumstances. We learn about how she got here through reflections into her past. I really enjoyed Jacqueline Maley’s writing style which was full of honesty. The writing allowed me to appreciate both the settings and to get to know and understand Suzy and her struggles in love and in motherhood. It is a relatively slow-paced storyline but I was sufficiently drawn in by the writing and the characters to want to continue on. Some of Suzy’s decisions along the way frustrated me but I also enjoyed how she really grew and changed by the conclusion of the book. I don’t know if this book will be for everyone but I personally really enjoyed it and I enjoyed the way the story ended, with all of the different threads being addressed. Virginia, NSW, 4 Stars

I really enjoyed this book and actually found myself thinking about the characters during the day. The main character and her young daughter are both likeable characters and like in many real life situations there are similarities between book characters and your own family – I found this a few times while reading the book. Very descriptive and made the reader feel familiar with the scenery and sights even if you had never actually been there before. Donna, VIC, 4 Stars

An easy weekend read that brings you into the heart of Sydney and into the life of Suzy Hamilton. Suzy is a journalist and a mother to four-year-old Maddy. Only a day after Suzy exposes celebrity Tracey Doran in an article in the newspaper, she receives the dreadful phone call that Tracey had committed suicide. After news spreads of Tracey’s death, the tables have turned onto Suzy. Suzy starts receiving hate mail, amongst the letters she receives vindictive personal letters based on Tracey and her article. Later Suzy is harassed by Tracey’s mother to rewrite the article and express another side of Tracey. I couldn’t relate or feel connected with the characters in the book. I’m not sure if it was because of the scenery-journalism or I personally found the characters in the book unlikeable. However, in parts of the book, I did feel sorrow towards some of the characters. I love the moral truth behind this novel. When you have been told something, there is usually two sides of the story. Firstly the one that has been told and the other is the truth which is yet to be told. “Assumption is the enemy of the truth” are the words of Suzy Hamilton. Overall I did enjoy this book and I look forward to reading more of Jacqueline Maley in the future. Cassie, NSW, 4 Stars

Thank you to Better Reading and Harper Collins Australia for an ARC of this debut novel by Aussie author, Jacqueline Maley. “How can you write other peoples’ stories, when you won’t admit the truth of your own?” I very much enjoyed reading this book which focused on topics which were close to my own heart – marriage, motherhood, suicide, guilt and shame, the power of journalism and the right to tell stories or not. It also explored the role of social media. On social media, we are able to say things about someone that we wouldn’t have the guts to say face to face. Social media can be a positive, affirming tool or it can be a negative force – allowing bullying and hateful language to flourish. We are each responsible for how we use social media and need to understand the ripple effects our use can have. When I first started the book I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it as I couldn’t really relate to the lifestyle it depicted or to the way Suzy seemed to slip in and out of fleeting relationships – but I had agreed to write a preview and so I kept reading and enjoyed it more as I got to know the characters and their backstories better. I ended up appreciating the opportunity to read the book. I also liked the ambiguity of the title of the book. Initially, I thought the truth the author was talking about was that of Tracey Doran but as I read more I realised it also meant the truth about Suzy, as well as the truth about Tracey’s mum, Jan. This intrigued me and each characters’ story contained twists which kept me wanting to read on. All in all, I thought it was a good read and I gave it 4 stars. Ruth, WA, 4 Stars

An engaging, brutally honest novel that describes motherhood with pinpoint accuracy. I found myself nodding along in agreement at so many parts, particularly when Suzy is eyeing off the “Park Mothers” who seemingly have it so together – this is a deception we all fall for, constantly. The first part of the book had me immediately immersed, and even though I was expecting more twists and turns, it held my attention the whole way through. The text is peppered with thinly veiled real-life references, which adds to the relatability of this novel. The exploration of the concept of truth was deftly handled. Every character was hiding something, from themselves and others, and it was only as they gradually came to accept or reveal their own truths that they could begin to move forward. A revealing, articulate piece of Australian modern fiction. Katrina, TAS, 4 Stars

From the striking opening line to the end, The Truth About Her is a fabulous debut from Jacqueline Maley. With a cast of relatable characters set against a compelling narrative, this novel takes readers on a highly emotive journey into the world of a journalist and the harsh consequences of morality. A gorgeous example of contemporary Australian fiction. Sarah, VIC, 4 Stars

The Truth About Her is an intimate insight into single motherhood, the daily challenges and the future dreams for both mother and child. Deanne, VIC, 4 Stars

This book is written from the point of view of Suzy, a single mother journalist who writes a less than flattering story about a young woman, Tracey, who dies soon after. I found this book quite thought-provoking as the author managed to challenge my thinking about which of the main characters I felt the most empathy towards. Although both Suzy and Jan were not people I would be friends with, I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted things to work out for them both. The events changed both their lives. It makes you think about the effect our words, especially in the media, have on others. I found it quite an interesting read. Kim, NSW, 4 Stars

Suzy Hamilton lives with her four-year-old daughter at her Uncle Sam’s Ruby Street terrace, a home devoid of full-length mirrors. Although a single mother, it is her work as a journalist that defines her. Suzy’s world begins to come crashing down when her expose of Tracey Doran, wellness expert and social media influencer, leads to suicide. Tracey had fraudulently claimed to have cured herself of bone cancer. Tipped off by an email, the article was nuanced but there was clear vitriol in the social media attacks that followed. Anonymous packages begin arriving, containing ‘I thought you might be interested’ missives and fragments of Tracey’s life. Tracey’s mother, the jungle animal print wearing Jan, unsettlingly makes contact and wants Suzy to write an alternative story. But will it be the truth of her, or of Tracey? Do we need a mirror to see ourselves? The redemptive quest is a dark tale: there’s an ancient threatening Moreton Bay fig tree, magpies that swoop with murderous intent, a screaming rusted garden gate. And trolls! Anita, QLD, 4 Stars

The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley was an interesting story. Suzy Hamilton is a journalist, and single mother. She has written an expose on a wellness blogger, 25-year-old Tracey Doran. Then she learns that Tracey has committed suicide after the publication of her expose. The story covers her ways of dealing with the guilt, and being approached by Tracey’s mother to write her true story. In places, the book was a bit wordy, but there were many underlying issues covered. Overall, a good story. Fay, VIC, 4 Stars

A strong debut novel with timely and insightful observations about journalism, the 24-hour news cycle, online culture and the challenges faced by working parents. It is also about the lengths parents will go to protect their children and I enjoyed the exploration of the various mother-daughter relationships. The characters are well-drawn and there is a strong sense of place throughout the book. I found this book difficult to put down, the plot twists and turns kept me guessing, and would make a great book club read. Holly, WA, 4 Stars

I really enjoyed The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley. The characters were well developed and the plot was interesting as it revolved around the main character’s guilt over a character’s death and whether she caused her to commit suicide over a story she wrote. I enjoyed the characters grappling with many of the topics. Thank you to Better Reading for the chance to read an advanced copy. Sally, NSW, 4 Stars

I quite enjoyed this book although it’s not something I would normally choose. It had a rawness about parenthood and love of family, good and bad and an original love story that had a smile on my face in the end. I loved Tom and Suzy, Suzy is such a strong woman and Tom was so sweet with Suzy’s daughter Maddy. The book was tense, confronting and quirky but overall a good read. Madison, SA, 4 Stars

A good read, well written, it captivates you to keep reading. You can tell a journalist has written this book because of all the detail in it. The main character is a journalist and the book details her travels and her love life, ultimate marriage and then separation. She is a single mum throughout most of the book. Details of her love/lust life are detailed with various people, one affair including her boss, after her separation. It is sad at times, as someone she wrote a report about ended up committing suicide. Does her life ultimately contribute to her suicide, or was it the report written by the journalist? Up to you to decide. It was captivating enough for me to keep reading, but when I finished the book, I must admit my thoughts were: what was that book about? No details left out, but I do really wonder what was the theme of the book. Glenice, VIC, 4 Stars

Initially, I was gripped – the first quarter of this book is fast-paced and had me intrigued. Unfortunately, the remaining three quarters were stagnant, slow, and a lot seemed to be quite irrelevant to the story. Kate, VIC, 3 Stars

The Truth About Her was an enthralling read about a journalist’s view of people, her own life and the consequences of one’s actions on others. It was a bit of a slow burn but kept me intrigued enough until the end. Claire, SA, 3 Stars

Not finished yet but very intriguing. Probably the most descriptive writer I have come across for a while, with scenes I can see so well in my head that I can almost smell and taste them. Tracey, NSW, 3 Stars

If your life isn’t yours, but loaned out constantly to others, then who is responsible when bad things happen or go wrong? Unfortunately, this is an average read in which the above question only arises two-thirds of the way in. After finishing this book I didn’t feel or think anything. It was well written, good character development, intriguing storyline, but I felt disconnected to the emotions of the characters. I didn’t feel the guilt, love, grief. But maybe that was the point. Are the characters just coasting through life, just going through the motions? Waiting for something to happen to them? In summary, this wasn’t a bad read and I felt content with the ending, but I felt it could have been more. Amanda, VIC, 3 Stars

The Truth About Her reinforced to me why I don’t do social media! It’s reminiscent of a famous Aussie case, which thankfully didn’t end in tragedy. I felt for Tracey’s mum, but it seemed so extreme that Tracey would have acted as she did so quickly… Suzy seems to be just coasting through life till she gets such a massive shock, which forces her to finally make some changes and open herself up more to life. Interesting that it all occurs over a stifling Sydney summer (with no air conditioning!), which contributes to the sense of suffocation. Ayesha, NSW, 3 Stars

The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley is a witty, perceptive debut novel about grief, love, and the daily juggles of a single mother with a full-time job in a social media-addicted society. Suzy Hamilton is a journalist whose investigative stories regularly expose criminals and scammers. She receives an anonymous tip that leads her to discover social media influencer, Tracey Doran, is making false claims. This leads to Tracey’s online demise and suicide. Faced with the guilt that her exposé has likely caused Tracey’s death, Suzy slowly unravels into a grief-driven downward spiral. Her social media feeds overflow with vulgarity and death threats, and she discovers first-hand the shame of cancel culture, causing her to examine her behaviour and question her choices. Maley has a beautiful writing style, and the plot is driven by its rich, multilayered characters. The interactions between Suzy and Tracey’s mother are tender and moving. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to draw me into this novel in a meaningful way. Essentially, I didn’t like or care what happened to the characters. The plot was bogged down with unnecessary detail, leaving me disinterested and skimming over large parts. I did, however, enjoy the ending. Linda, QLD, 3 Stars

The Truth About Her by Jacqueline Maley started well. It was fast-paced and interesting but failed to hold my attention. Although dealing with important issues relating to the internet, social media and journalism the characters were hard to believe or relate to. The only characters I felt for were the daughter, uncle and spurned lover of the main protagonist. This book will certainly divide readers as I am sure some people would identify with the characters and their issues. Janelle, NSW, 3 Stars

When Suzy Hamilton hears that Tracey Doran has killed herself, Suzy feels guilt after she exposed Tracey’s deception and false claims. She throws herself into looking after Maddy, her four-year-old, work and sex with two men. Then she starts to receive anonymous letters all featuring things from Tracey’s life. This makes Suzy more unsettled. Who is sending them and why? Could it be Tracey’s mother, Jan, who wants Suzy to write an affirming positive story about Tracey? Could it be a means for Suzy to atone in some way for the guilt that she feels for the 25-year-old’s death? The premise of this story is interesting and it certainly highlights the problems of social media where anonymous keyboard cowards can spew the most hateful and vile comments. There are some interesting observations about life and people throughout and some good prose. But it was not enough to maintain my interest. Maybe the characters are believable in the context of the political and journalism world, but I struggled to relate to or care about any of them, and that included Suzy. Added to which, some of her decisions seemed incredibly stupid and naive. By the time the story was about halfway through, I was getting bored with what, at times, seemed unnecessary and uninteresting information. I started to skim towards the end. The closer it progressed towards the end, the less believable I found the behaviour of the characters. This is a personal view from someone who could not relate to or like the main character. Others may react differently. My thanks to the publisher and Better Reading for my ARC to read and review. Though there were aspects of this book I appreciated, there were other aspects I did not. For me it was just an okay read but others may respond to it better than I did. Dale, NSW, 2 Stars

I found this book quite uneventful and pretty boring. For my taste, there was too much written about her daughter and the constant references to “the incident” annoyed me. The main part should have been about Tracey Doran’s death but it was more like a side story next to Suzy’s “relationships”. Maybe the problem as well was that I really could not get myself to like her. She declares that her daughter Maddy is the most precious thing in her life but is quite willing to forgo taking care of her when she has to attend a funeral for work. Sandra, NSW, 2 Stars

One of the most arduous books to read so far this year. The plot and storyline held great promise, but I believe the writer extended the book unnecessarily by about a third. I would have enjoyed this novel had it been shorter without the unnecessary waffle. Dianne, SA, 2 Stars

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        Publisher details

        The Truth About Her
        Author
        Jacqueline Maley
        Publisher
        HarperCollins
        Genre
        Fiction
        Released
        07 April, 2021

        Synopsis

        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.
        Jacqueline Maley
        About the author

        Jacqueline Maley

        Books by Jacqueline Maley

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