The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock

The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins
Review copy provided by the publisher in conjunction with TLC Book Tours

Beautiful Nicolette arrives at Cat Rozier’s school in 1984 and Cat and Nic become inseparable. They spend their time hanging out with other teens, drinking, and causing trouble on the small island of Guernsey where they live. Unfortunately, they have a falling-out due to a cruel betrayal, and their friendship is shattered, causing Cat to react in the worst possible way. When Cat isn’t spending time with Nic, she is reading the story of her father’s brother Charlie, who had a very interesting life during the Nazi occupation of Guernsey during the Second World War. While Cat doesn’t know the full story of her uncle’s past, she is desperate to uncover the family secrets within her father’s journals.

This book is difficult to summarize because there are two storylines, both with quite a lot of twists and turns that are not to be spoiled. Cat’s own story is an interesting one because from the onset, the reader knows Cat isn’t exactly the most trustworthy or reliable of narrators. Cat tells the reader about some horrible thing she’s done pretty early on in the story, but it takes her the entire book to reveal what exactly happened and why. As a result, I was on the edge of my seat to find out what her secrets were, while at the same time wondering if anything she was saying was even true in the first place. The secondary plot, about Cat’s uncle Charles, was less interesting to me but I still wanted to know the family secrets regarding that situation. I also liked that plot for the historical aspects – I will read just about any historical fiction regarding World War Two, so this worked for me in that regard.

I have to say that I didn’t much enjoy Cat’s character. She really was a terribly behaved teenager, and not only that but she was rather self-absorbed and not very self-aware. She kind of did whatever she wanted with no thought to the potential consequences. While I was interested in her story and wanted to know where it would take me, I had a difficult time connecting with her which probably hampered my overall enjoyment of the story. The fact that I couldn’t trust her added an interesting element to the story, but it also made it difficult for me to feel close to her in any way.

The fact that this book is essentially two separate stories coming together is fun and exciting, but I have to admit that I had difficulty getting overly involved in either one because every time I would get sucked into one plot, it would pause and the other one would continue. It just didn’t seem to me like they threaded together very well, and as a result I found the interruptions somewhat distracting. However, in the end I was satisfied with the resolutions to both of them, so I guess that’s a positive. I admire what Horlock was trying to do in putting these two stories into one novel, but I can’t say that it worked all that well for me.

While The Book of Lies has many interesting and unique elements and I did enjoy reading it, overall it won’t become one of my favorite novels. It’s not that I disliked it by any means, it’s just that it falls more into the “it was decent” category and ultimately I think it will be forgettable. I would still recommend trying it out if the plot intrigues you, as some of the elements might come together better for you than they did for me. Overall, this is an interesting and creative book, but not necessarily a favorite of mine in the end,

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17 thoughts on “The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock

  1. Sometimes when I read a book that has two stories or two narrators, I find the transitions jarring and disturbing, so I know exactly what you mean. This book sounds like it’s worth giving a try.

    • Yes! Sometimes it works, sometimes it just falls short and unfortunately in this case it fell a bit short. Still a good book but just could have been better.

  2. It really is hard to describe this book without revealing too much. I wasn’t a fan of Cat either, but I really was intrigued by Guernsey’s history during the Nazi occupation. I’ve linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

  3. You know, it’s always a toss up as to if I will enjoy a book due to an unlikeable narrator, and it sounds like this one was extremely unlikable. I also tend to find stories with dual story lines unbalanced at times, but there is just something about this book that really intrigues me. Maybe it is the setting and the events that are going on beyond the story. I’m not quite sure, but I think this sounds like a book that I might really be able to get into, despite it’s drawbacks. Fantastic review, Heather. I am really glad that you mostly enjoyed it, and that you were honest about it’s flaws as well. Thanks!

  4. When there is a teenager involved, you almost know that some immature behavior is going to happen. But some are worse than others! I guess not all books can be five star winners, but are worth your time. Sounds like this is one of them.

  5. I’ll have to give this book some thought. Like you, I love historical fiction. However, I have so many books on my list that I am dying to read that a book that is classified as decent won’t help it to reach the top of the list anytime soon. Thanks for the honesty.

  6. A close family friend is actually reading this book and has similar thoughts about it. Not sure I would like two plots, two stories in the same book, makes you wonder why not writing two great separate books.
    Appreciate your honest assessment very much.

  7. I’m currently reading this book and so far like the storyline (and think it’s interesting how the author links the two stories together). We will see if it is a memorable one when I’m finished!

  8. I’m getting ready to write my review to post tomorrow and briefly skimmed your thoughts here. I just found myself not connecting with anyone but I did like the Uncle’s story line.

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