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Book Cover Image: The Book of Lies by Mary HorlockTitle: The Book of Lies

Author: Mary Horlock

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):

“Life on the tiny island of Guernsey has just become a whole lot harder for fifteen-year-old Cat Rozier. She’s gone from model pupil to murderer, but she swears it’s not her fault. Apparently it’s all the fault of history.
A new arrival at Cat’s high school in 1984, the beautiful and instantly popular Nicolette inexplicably takes Cat under her wing. The two become inseparable—going to parties together, checking out boys, and drinking whatever liquor they can shoplift. But a perceived betrayal sends them spinning apart, and Nic responds with cruel, over-the-top retribution.

Cat’s recently deceased father, Emile, dedicated his adult life to uncovering the truth about the Nazi occupation of Guernsey—from Churchill’s abandonment of the island to the stories of those who resisted—in hopes of repairing the reputation of his older brother, Charlie. Through Emile’s letters and Charlie’s words—recorded on tapes before his own death— a “confession” takes shape, revealing the secrets deeply woven into the fabric of the island . . . and into the Rozier family story.”

Thoughts: Lies are all around us. White lies, lies of omission, lies of ignorance, and the more egregious deliberate whoppers. Because of their prevalence, one is left to wonder, just what is truth? Is it indeed subjective or is it more concrete? Can one ever truly differentiate between lies and the truth? Does it mean the same thing to each person? The Book of Lies explores truth more flexible edges, that which allows one to blur the line between truth and fiction until the truth in its pure form is lost forever.

Another novel taking place of the island of Guernsey, The Book of Lies focuses on the aftermath of its occupation and how it affected survivors for generations. How has history portrayed Guernsey’s compliance with the Nazis who inhabited the island for three years? Alongside this exploration between fact and fiction about island events during World War II is the story of Cat, a teen who is trying to find her way among the scrutiny of island living after the death of her father. Flipping back and forth between Cat’s story and that of her father’s brother, who is unburdening himself of the truth of his experiences during the war, the two stories merge in unusual and unexpected ways. While the switch between teen angst and the more mature, and in my opinion valid, anguish over past actions and their consequences can be jarring at times, one story does flow into the other, all the while highlighting the theme.

Ms. Horlock shines in her characterization. Cat is not the most likable of characters. She is a drama queen, who influences her own sense of flair and dramatics to all of her actions and commentary. It is frankly exhausting after a while, if only because it is too familiar and authentic. In Nicolette, she embodies the queen bee with all of the social underpinnings and cruelty that come from being at the top of the social ladder. With Charlie, and later Emile’s stories, Ms. Horlock focuses on the emotional damage and regret that weigh so heavily on people. The entire story is not an easy one to read from an emotional perspective because each of the characters is a different emotional roller coaster. The reader is left to be flung about, only able to catch a breath/break when s/he stops reading for a while.

While many recent stories have been set on the island of Guernsey and focused on what occurred there during World War II, The Book of Lies is refreshing in that the reader is allowed to see what happened after the Allies won the war. It is this unique perspective that breathes a breath of fresh air into what is quickly becoming a somewhat stale story line. It is the aftermath of any trauma that defines a person, and both Cat and Charlie embody this idea with their own reactions to trauma. It is not light summer reading; instead The Book of Lies Is a thought-provoking commentary on the fluidity of truth.

Thank you to NetGalley for my review copy!

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