Title: The Lies We Tell
Author: Jane Corry
Published by: Penguin – Fig Tree
Publication date: 24th Jun 2021
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Sarah always thought of herself and her husband, Tom, as good people. But that was before their son Freddy came home saying he’d done something terrible. Begging them not to tell the police.
Soon Sarah and Tom must find out just how far they are willing to push themselves, and their marriage, to protect their only child . . .
As the lies build up and Sarah is presented with the perfect opportunity to get Freddy off the hook, she is faced with a terrifying decision . . .
Save her son . . . or save herself?
I was approved for an ARC of The Lies We Tell by Jane Corry via NetGalley, my thanks to Penguin for the approval and I hope that you find my honest review to your satisfaction.
The Lies we Tell is a masterfully written character study of two people who, ultimately, do not belong together. Sarah and Tom, parents of fifteen year old Freddie, are both from vastly different backgrounds, drawn to one another in times of need where passion blooms, marriage happens swiftly and a miracle baby keeps them together long term – for better or for worse. Their differing perspectives on shared events makes for captivating reading; reading the characters inner monologues and thoughts to the goings-on around them provides not only insight to their predicaments but leaves the reader swaying their own thoughts in alignment to the characters convictions. As a reader I could sympathise with each parents point of view throughout the novel and empathise with the actions some of them take.
Right from the start we’re shown that something dreadful has happened involving Freddie. Something dreadful. We’re soon taken back through the years and given a complete inspection of the characters lives, starting from how the two of them first met, the relatively minor trials they face as well as the much more scathing secrets they keep and the consequences of those secrets being brought to the light, right up until the introductory scenes where Freddie returns home from his night out that went awry. Them, beyond as the actions each individual takes past this point progresses the story towards it’s conclusion.
The plot is presented in broken narrative format; between the past and the present taking place at Truro Crown Court, where, we believe, that Freddie is on Trial. Of course, it’s not all as clear-cut as all that and this broken narrative has surprise elements of it’s own. At one point, I did feel like this broken narrative, was going to bring the book to a grinding halt; giving us pages upon pages of nothing but backstory, but as Sarah and Toms backstory is revealed slowly, it unravels and intertwines with the current story in a carefully considered way. Each event has relevance to the overall arc of the novel without adding unnecessary complications and while the pace dips from rapid concern to a slower, slice of life, pace it is none the less enjoyable for doing so.
At the end of each chapter is an italicised train of thought. At different stages as the story progresses there is an application of thought as to who is having these thoughts. They could be attributed to any number of the characters suffering through these events. They add a bit of foreshadowing and serve as a reminder that there is something deeper to this story than just the memoirs of a married couple that no longer see eye-to-eye.
What I found rather startling, after I’d finished the book, is that each of the characters is fundamentally flawed and none of them are overly likeable. Each has made their mistakes and are unredeemable due to their actions. I especially struggled with Tom, who felt very uncaring and distant from his family life. A man more concerned with his work and the numbers of his profession than the young family that he’d tried for so long to bring into the world; I found him shallow, more concerned with the opinions of his petty friend, Hugo, than with his wife and child. In a way, understandable, considering their shared connection, but it didn’t make him a likeable characters. On the other hand, Sarah is very caring and comes across as an ‘easy-ride’ in the eyes of her teenage son; she loves Freddie unconditionally – as a mother should – but without giving any boundaries or guidance. There are also some instances of her ‘punishing’ Tom which left her in a bad light. And yet, this didn’t impact my enjoyment of the story, showing that a character doesn’t have to be likeable to be able to tell a good story.
The story in The Lies we Tell wraps up in it’s own way. A complete resolution to the traumas that each character goes through, but not without cost or consequence. The last chapter held some thoughts and revelations that brought me out a bit emotionally. Ultimately, as a parent, this books makes you wonder what lengths you’d go to in order to protect your children. It serves as a reminder that innocence doesn’t last forever and that your own experiences feed into the way you bring up your own children. The reflection on this through Sarahs eyes added a level of emotion to the story and it’s within the last chapter or so that she turns from a flawed character to one that evokes a little more sympathy. I do think that some of the ending was a little trite, but overall I was satisfied with the end results.
The writing style is very easy to read. Leaving the reader with an intense desire to know what is going to happen to the family next. The pace isn’t break-neck speed, but doesn’t leave the reader bored, either. The drastic change of time and pace from the set-up of the book to the then, meandering aspect of daily-life is somewhat jarring initially and leaves the reader wondering what the point of it all is, but the thread ties back around again. If you read the first part and feel you’re left hanging, I to urge a bit of perseverance as it all comes back together and ties into the story as a whole.
The reason this wasn’t a five-star read for me is that I feel like there was a lot of stereotype to the characters. Tom had all the cliche traits of someone on the Autistic Spectrum, Sarah was the wishy-washy, misfit, artistic hippy and the best friends we’re the typically appearing rich family that had it all. I feel like there could have been more done to break the moulds with the characters and avoiding some of the pit-fall tropes.
All in all The Lies we Tell was a good story with some interesting discussion points; how far would you go to protect your own children? With some flawed characters that, while dipping into some cliche tropes, we’re interesting to read about. With a fine, if a little too sunny, ending that while well resolved wasn’t overly plausible.