Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Title: The Lies We Told
Author: Camilla Way
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 336
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It’s been a long time since I read a book that I couldn’t wait to pick up and read again, no matter how many interruptions showed up. The Lies We Told was that kind of a book for me. I couldn’t read this book in one sitting, obviously because I no longer have the luxury of switching off the world and reading away. But I found myself returning to this book, every chance that I got. And that’s not something that I can say for many of the thrillers I’ve read in the past.

It was the character of Hannah that nabbed my attention. I haven’t encountered anyone like her within the pages of a book. Outside the pages of a book, I hope never to bump into her.

Beth and Doug Jennings become parents to Hannah after several miscarriages. From the beginning, it seems as if there is something off about her. Hannah lacks empathy and although still a child, shows a predilection towards committing violent actions when her will is thwarted.

Clara Haynes and her boyfriend, Luke Lawson, are quite happy living together when tragedy strikes. Luke disappears from his workplace, and Clara has no idea where he might have gone. Police investigations fail to uncover any clue, and Clara as also Luke’s parents, Rose and Oliver, and his best friend, Mac, are totally worried.

Luke’s disappearance is the second tragedy in the lives of the ultra-perfect Lawson family. Luke’s older sister, Emily, had walked out of their home at age 18, seemingly of her own will, and was never seen again.

Over the next few days, Clara wonders if Luke had truly loved her as much as she loved him. She learns from Mac that Luke had had an affair with a colleague. She also learns through her own investigations that he wasn’t the perfect gentleman she thought he was, that he had not treated the previous women in his life well. On sifting his mail for clues into his disappearance, she finds over 500 threatening mails from a woman.

Even as Clara becomes determined to do everything in her power to find Luke, for his parents’ sake, if not her own, she wonders if Luke will ever be found. And we readers wonder what are the secrets that Beth and Doug are hiding.

The book is written in the first person past tense point of view of Beth Jennings in Cambridgeshire in 1986, and the third person past tense point of view of Clara Haynes in London in 2017. Both points of view show up in alternate chapters.

From the beginning, it becomes evident that Beth’s account is being written not in the here and now, but with Beth looking back. These chapters have the air of a confession, as if there were something that Beth needed to come clean with.

Beth’s account, in particular, was so good, that I found myself being more than a little afraid of Hannah. I had similar feelings about Alison, Clara’s neighbor.

The viewpoints of Beth and Clara were so utterly distinct, showcasing the author’s skill. Even halfway through the book, I was unable to see how the two narratives were connected. Nor could I gain any clue through an attempt to tally the timelines.

There were many moments that raised the book for me above the level of a thriller. When Amy, Luke’s first serious girlfriend, tells Clara about how Luke and later her husband treated her, she says, Funny…how it’s always us women who are left to deal with the shit men leave behind.

We are also reminded about people who have difficult children, about how some men have a sense of entitlement, how they force themselves upon women and then dump them later.

Clara came across as naïve, getting into situations she could have avoided if she had only used her common sense. One thing I shall never understand is why characters in thrillers, particularly women, will drink heavily, especially when they’re alone, feeling vulnerable and in danger?

Clara’s idolising of Luke tells us of the tendency to place those we love on a pedestal, disregarding their faults. It was a little tedious to see her so enamoured with Luke’s parents that she just couldn’t fault them for anything. In contrast, we get to see almost nothing about her own folks.

Mac provided good support to Clara in her efforts to uncover the truth behind Luke’s disappearance. Tom was one character that deserved a little more space. We don’t get to know much about what happened to his character at the end of the book.

I also felt that this book could have made a bigger impact if it had ended two chapters earlier. But then the author would have missed the chance to announce a sequel, which, I must admit, I’m more than a little intrigued by.

(I received an ARC from First to Read).

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