We talk about getting away and seeing the world, but we never do. We stay here making the same mistakes, over and over. (8)The Book of Lies opens in late 1985 with 15-year-old Cat Rozier admitting that she's murdered her best friend, Nicolette. Her narrative then begins to chart the short history of Cat's tumultuous relationship with Nic. Cat's written confession is interspersed with pages of documents that Cat found in her late father's office. Those documents tell the story of Cat's uncle Charlie, "who got in trouble with the Germans and ended up being starved and tortured and driven mad. He only just survived the War and he was the reason Dad made himself an expert on said German Occupation" (27).
Cat is such a wonderfully real character, a teenager through and through. Self-satisfied and self-loathing by turns, Cat is angsty and witty, judgmental and clueless. She's also a bit of a drama queen, a snarky one. Her voice is so very authentic (and that can be very hard to pull off). One line in particular made me laugh out loud.1
Some readers may be put off by the novel's format (split narrative with footnotes), but I thought it worked really well for the story Horlock was trying to tell.2 And, while Cat and Charlie's stories are quite different, they parallel nicely.
The novel is also full of truisms. This one had particular resonance for me: "I suppose that's the thing about History, there are always several versions of that thing we call the truth" (213).
The Book of Lies is a strong debut for Horlock. I do hope that people people aren't Guernsied out after The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The Book of Lies does deal with occupied Guernsey, but it has so much more to offer (if nothing else the 1980s storyline deals with bullying). I know lots of book clubs read Guernsey Literary (mine included) and while I think that The Book of Lies would provide plenty of discussion fodder on its own, it would be a perfect follow-up for Guernsey Literary.
The Book of Lies will be released in mid July.
- I'm not quite sure why, but I found this hysterical at the time: "Mr. McCracken asked after Mum and called her a 'trouper,' but I thought he said a 'grouper,' which is a fish. I replied that Mum didn't like water and hot climates" (30).
- And, I do love footnotes
disclosure: I received a review copy of The Book of Lies from HarperCollins via NetGalley.