by Mary Horlock
Publication Date: July 19, 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
I will read most historical fiction surrounding World War II. I’m not sure what it is about the time period, but I can’t seem to get enough of it. I want to know everything I can about it. It sickens and disgusts me, but I continue to read everything I can. When I heard about [amazon_link id="0062065092" target="_blank" ]The Book of Lies[/amazon_link] through TLC Book Tours and the story involving the Occupation of Guernsey, I was very excited to read this book. I had not previously known about Guernsey’s involvement in the War, so I found the historical pieces of this book to be fascinating.
Guernsey is situated between England and France in the English Channel (see map – if you are anything like me, you want to know exactly where you are in the world when you start a book!). The print version of the book actually has a map at the beginning so you can visualize where all the places are when Cat and Charlie discuss them in the novel. I read the e-book version through Netgalley and did not look at my print copy until I was done. I wish I had! I found the map to be very useful if you like to visualize where all the places are on Guernsey as the characters are talking about them. The e-book did not offer this feature, but I also had the uncorrected proof, so it could be in the finished copy. But, I digress.
1985, Guernsey – Nicolette and Cat are the best of friends before a perceived betrayal rips them apart and Nic responds with incessant bullying of Cat.
1945, Guernsey – Charlie (Cat’s uncle) and Ray are friends during the Nazi Occupation of Guernsey during WWII. The reader sees the rise and fall of their friendship and how Charlie ends up betraying those closest to him and ending up in a concentration camp. Charlie records his story on tape, before his death. It is transcribed by Cat’s father Emile. It is Emile’s life-long goal to uncover the truth about the Nazi Occupation of Guernsey.
Fifteen-year-old Cat Rozier is your typical teenage angst-ridden girl. She describes herself as overweight, without many friends, but very smart. Living in her father’s shadow, she has picked up a lot of information about the Nazi Occupation of Guernsey, which she spews forth to anyone who will listen. Cat is also atypical in that, from the first page, she tells us that she is a murderess. And she’s a bit upset that no one has suspected her!
It’s been a fortnight since they found her body and for the most part I am glad she’s gone. But I also can’t believe she’s dead, and I should because I did it. Yes. That’s right. I killed Nicolette on these very cliffs and I’m frankly amazed that no one has guessed. (pg. 1)
So, from the first page, I am intrigued. Who is Nicolette? And why did a young girl kill her? Was it an accident? Did she do it on purpose? So many questions tumble through the mind as Cat’s narrative continues. She goes on to say that the murder is really not her fault. History has a way of repeating itself.
We talk about getting away and seeing the world, but we never do. We stay here making the same mistakes, over and over. I’m a murderer and it’s not just my fault. I can blame the Germans, and I can blame my parents, and I can blame my parents’ parents. Don’t you see? Once you know your History, it does explain everything.
It turns out I was a murderer before I was even born. (pg. 5)
The narrative then jumps to Charlie back in 1945 right at the cusp of the Nazis coming in to occupy Guernsey. Charlie jumps from a boat that is taking the natives to safety, choosing instead to stay and fight the Germans. He falls from the boat and gets help from Ray Le Poidevoin, who becomes his friend. . . and later, his enemy.
Using a split narrative, Horlock switches from Cat in 1985 to Charlie in 1945, showing how Cat’s family history shaped her into who she is today. We learn how Charlie’s experiences during WWII shaped the course of the Rozier family for the next two generations. The book is aptly titled The Book of Lies. Because what really is that thing we call the truth? As a reader, I kept wondering if what I was reading was really the truth or a bunch of lies perceived as the truth.
Being a fanatic of World War II historical fiction, I would have preferred an entire book just from Charlie’s perspective. I had no knowledge that Guernsey was occupied during the War and would have loved further exploration of Charlie’s character during this time. The quick changes from character to character were jarring. Once I was really getting into one character’s story, it would switch to the other and then I would forget what was going on in the other narrative. It was quite frustrating. And I am normally a fan of the split narrative! The changes were just too abrupt for my liking.
The book is ultimately about two friendships gone horribly wrong and how the past has a way of influencing the present. It was an okay read, but it took me a while to get through. It didn’t excite me as much as I would have hoped.