2017 Harvill Secker
This was a library find, which I had mixed feelings about as, despite the huge popularity of Ruth Ware’s previous 2 books, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 neither had been favourites for me. It’s difficult to know how much we can be influenced by the hype surrounding a book and at times this inevitably results in disappointment and I think the 2 aforementioned books fell victims of this for me. However I am vulnerable to advertising and marketing and the more I see something the more appealing it becomes and I had seen a lot of The Lying Game on my Instagram feed so when I was greeted by this book on a prominent display in the entrance of my local library I was very quick to snap it up.
The text message arrives in the small hours of the night. It’s just three words: I need you.
Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her.
At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after seventeen years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three women she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten.
Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, not after what they did. It’s time for the women to get their story straight…
So the premise of this book is four women reunite due to a mystery find on the beach that they are clearly implicated in. The story is told entirely from Isa’s view point, a civil service lawyer on maternity leave with her 6 month old baby Freya and the story is told in the first person, in the current time and recollecting back to the time when all 4 girls were boarding at Salten. I liked the premise of the lying game the girls played and at 15 they were a tight clique and their friendship was everything. Kate, one of the quartet lived close to the school and this granted the girls a significant amount of freedom, staying at Kate’s at weekends where her father a relaxed and liberal soul who taught Art at the school, provided minimal supervision and a laissez faire attitude to life.
The discovery on the beach is the prompt for these women to now regroup, to support each other and to maintain the lie told in their youth. But there are other secrets at play here and while not wholly unpredictable, personally I did not have this entirely worked out until it was unfolding on the page.
Throughout the story there were times when I had to suspend disbelief and this is something I struggle with in this type of fiction, it needs, I believe to be plausible and at times this book felt far fetched. This frustrated me. However the main character in Isa was in the most part more robust than characters in previous of Ware’s books and she was reliable in her narrative which I appreciate although I know others love an unreliable narrator. The school years were my preferred part of this story as the reactions of the girls then felt more feasible than their adult responses. There were some characters in this story that I felt could have been better developed or removed, including Isa’s partner who enabled a plot twist, in terms of drama in their relationship but actually played little part otherwise and I do think it is troubling when the reactions of characters drive the plot in this way.
Overall however this book was good. My favourite by Ruth Ware to date, which takes me back to my opening paragraph which touched on hype surrounding books and the impact this could have, positively or negatively on reading experience. I opened this book with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised.
Janel at Keeper of the Pages has just written an interesting post on Hyped Books which is worth reading in my opinion, including the comments, you can find it here.