Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Harriet Tyce - The Lies You Told

Has she left her child in the care of a killer?
Sadie has moved back to London so her daughter can attend the exclusive school her domineering father has secured her a place at. It's highly sought-after and highly competitive - just like the other mothers, Sadie soon discovers.
While she's trying to get her daughter settled and navigate the fraught politics of the school gate, Sadie is also trying to reclaim a position in her old legal chambers - she used to practice as a criminal barrister. She's given the junior brief on a scandalous case involving a male teacher and his student. It's an opportunity to prove herself, but will she let a dangerous flirtation cloud her professional judgement? And will her sudden close friendship with another mother prevent her from seeing the truth - and the threat that she's inviting into her home?

Comment: This is another book I brought from the library. I had heard of the author before, since her book Blood Orange was quite hyped when it was published but the opinion of some friends convinced me I probably wouldn't like it much, so I could easily ignore it. 
Now, I see this one at the library and, well, since it was free, I decided to take the opportunity to check the author's style for myself but it turns out that likely I missed nothing by not having read the other book...

In this book we meet Sadie Roper as she and her daughter return to England, so that Sadie can decided what to do with her late mother's house, source of some bed memories for her, as well as enroll her daughter Robin in a private school - something directly related to her mother's will. They are also running from Andrew, her soon to be ex and Robin's father, after something terrible he did, which Sadie can't forgive. At the same time, Sadie decides it's time to get back to work, something she interrupted when she went to America with her husband, and when the case of a young teacher accused by his underage student is given to her, she wants to prove her worth, but will this be as easy as it looks like? What about the pressure of the mother's group at Robin's school?

I think the author knows what she wants to write about (it is said on her bio that she took creative writing classes) and her style is easy and fluid, making it very easy to turn the pages. Although I wasn't too happy with the story, it is true I managed to go through it very quickly. The issue, for me, it the attempt to use certain ideas (should I call them cliches) when it comes to plot points and, by mixing up many things and trying so hard to make this a thriller or, at least, a suspense kind of plot, the reality is that in the end the result was very weak and lacking a true climax.

Sadie arrives back home and we are aware she is afraid for her daughter's life, something related to what she is running from, and whom, namely Andrew, who has done something terrible and Sadie prefers to return to a house where she wasn't happy, so that Robin can be protected. It is rather weird that living in the house is only allowed as long as Robin goes to a private school, where Sadie herself attended but which she also knows wasn't such a good experience. Although Sadie is a lawyer and could - I wonder? - try to have this changed, annulled or whatever the legal path is in such cases, she doesn't so that she can get installed quickly.

Despite the fact this is out of the ordinary, Robin does go to school but there is this vibe of private school rules which start creepy, as if the mothers of the students are all in a cult or something, so weird is their group mentality. Of course, Sadie being new, she is treated as the poor new girl. I suppose this idea has its merit and it's not that far from reality, whether in a private of public school, after all the kids live by their groups and peer pressure is intense. As for the mothers, though... but I guess this being a private school means we might have some interesting details going on.

Sadie also goes back to work and the case is teacher vs student, being the student treated as someone unsavory and the teacher a paragon of virtue. In a #metoo era, I suppose this subject is never out of time, but if on one hand it seemed too obvious the case would go one way, it couldn't be helped the other choice would be quite obvious too, so I expected the author to do something unexpected with it, but the twist chosen was very, very weak...

In fact, I'd say the whole story was based on very ineffective elements. Things could be interestingly done but it feels the author took very cliche or already seen ideas and somehow in her story, those elements just didn't mesh well. I can't say if what bothered me more about the lack of enthusiasm I felt while reading was due to the weak plot choices or the uninspiring method used to link them. No twist - nor about Sadie and Robin's life now in England, nor about Sadie's secrets related to her childhood traumas, nor about the school, nor about the case ever felt urgent  or that we should be concerned about them. Everything was so thin that I can't understand how it would matter.

Still, my biggest disappointment was over the case and how this was affecting Sadie's work. The reason why the case was made to look as basic as it was turned out to have a very simple but weak reason. A real lawyer, or should I say in real life, things wouldn't be dealt with in that way by lawyers I think. As for the reason why Sadie brought Robin and why she was afraid of Andrew... it made me think of a teacher once saying that a very poor decision to finish a story is "and then they realized it had all been a dream". It's not the situation here, no!, but it was as silly and dull as if it were so.

The school sub plot, related to the mothers and the pressure for the girls to do well, and why one of the mothers acts so weirdly at times... there is a definite intention of making this the cleverest twist of the story and the end, the very final page is supposed to be the "aha" moment but to be honest, i found everything badly done and the way things were written didn't give enough intensity nor importance to the best details, making the end very silly. It was not believable if one think about the type of content given or the way the story is written.

All considered, I can see how the "bones" of this story would work out, but the execution didn't convince me and I really think the author could have done better in making the characters feel more mysterious or having more valid reasons for their behaviors.
Grade: 5/10

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