Sunday 24 July 2011

Review: The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock

The Book of Lies was a fascinating read not just for its page-turning story, but also for the themes it explores.


One of the themes is, as the title suggests, lies - in particular, the devastating damage they can cause, no matter how small, off-hand or innocent they seem at the time. But what I found most interesting was its exploration of the truth - and, by extension, history - beautifully demonstrating how subjective it is, and how one person's truth is another's lie. We each experience events in our own unique way, with our own version or interpretation of the truth.

This point is emphasised through the use of two different narrators - both 15, both living on the island of Guernsey - only 40 years apart. The first narrator we meet is the precocious, overweight, bookish outsider Cat, who, she tells us, has killed her best friend, the beautiful and totally bitchy Nicolette. In the next chapter we're introduced to Charlie, Cat's uncle, as he describes events on Guernsey 40 years earlier, when he too made a fateful friend and apparently caused a death. The book continues to alternate between Cat's and Charlie's stories, revealing details in such a way as to emphasise the parallels between the two and underscore the precariousness of the truth.

The Book of Lies works so well because Horlock interweaves these two stories wonderfully, switching between the voices of an '80s schoolgirl and a WWII survivor with such skill that it's never jarring. While both characters are strong, it was Cat's narration that I most enjoyed - not because she was a particularly likable character (she's downright horrid at times), but because she was so authentic. With her melodramatic emotions, delight in big words, desperation to fit in and awkwardness around the guy she likes, I recognised in Cat girls I knew at high school and, dare I say, even myself (dead best friend notwithstanding). My heart went out to both her and Charlie, and ached as the reality of their situations was slowly revealed. Overall, The Book of Lies was a captivating, quick and enjoyable read.

Rating: 4/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • I was a little disappointed with the ending - while I liked the "twist", I didn't really like the abruptness of it. I wanted some closure for Cat's story, including how her mum thought/acted after finding out the truth, and whether Michael really was going to run away with her.
  • I kept on waiting for some kind of connection between Michael and Nicolette and/or Michael and Donnie. It seemed like there was some kind of twisted love triangle happening behind the scenes there, outside of Cat's version of events.
  • The story of Charlie's mother and father broke my heart. La Duchesse: what a bitch!
  • A bonus to Charlie's story was learning about the German Occupation of Guernsey during WWII - I didn't know much at all about this aspect of the war, and it makes me want to investigate further.
Eye Candy
I pictured...

Alison Pill as Cat

Eddie Redmayne as Charlie

Jamie Campbell Bower as Michael

Matt Smith as Mr McCracken

Tamsin Egerton as Nicolette

Fine Print
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: July 2011
Get It: Fishpond


  1. Oooh, that looks good!! I like that back and forth aspect. I really like books that do that, like Atonement, ya know!

  2. I hadn't even heard of this one. Hmmm. I wonder if the ending without closure would bug me too.

  3. April - I haven't read Atonement (I fear it will be too depressing), but it's an interesting device. :)

    Jenny - It did bug me, but I'm still glad I read it - a great book!

  4. This sounds like a really intriguing book. Normally, I find it hard to get into books that flip perspectives if the characters lives aren't immediately intertwined but your review makes me think otherwise!

    Thanks for visiting the blog :)

    PS. I've added you onto my blogroll because you're so cool!

  5. Even with characters that are horrid, if they are authentic, it just makes the story more real for me because not everyone is Ms. Perfect. I like dimensions to my characters, and Cat seems to be just that.

    And I love how you cast the characters. I love matching pictures to words.

    Thanks for the review Belle. I hadn't heard of this book before.

  6. Nice review, this one seems pretty interesting. Eddie Redmayne looks so young in that picture. I watched him in Pilliars of the Earth... The series wasn't that great, but he did a good job.

    Also, good to know someone else wasn't all that pleased with Perfume!

  7. Missie - So true! Give me a flawed character any day over one that's too perfect.

    Two Bibliomaniacs - Thanks! I tried to find a young pic of Eddie coz the character is 15. I haven't seen Pillars of the Earth, but I really liked him as Angel in Tess of the Durbervilles.

  8. Another book to add to my bookshelf! Haha BTW, I love the 'eye candy' you added at the end...what a cool idea! I will be following your blog for sure! You can check mine out here:

  9. Thanks Amanda! I'll check yours out :)

  10. Hi, great review, nice reading after having read this myself too, thanks for visiting my blog. I like how you have cast the characters!