Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware - Review

I enjoyed Ruth Ware's first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, but it was her second, The Woman in Cabin 10, which really established her on my Must-Read-Authors list. (It's not actually so much of a list, as a section of my brain designated for that purpose. But you get the general idea.) Anyway, The Lying Game consolidated that even further.

Having said that, it was a bit of a slow burner for me. I liked that part of the story is set in a boarding school (despite, or perhaps because of, never having been to one, I've been a sucker for boarding-school stories since my Enid Blyton reading days). However the school element is not actually that pronounced, as most of the novel takes place in the present day. The story is narrated by Isa (which she tells us rhymes with nicer, although I can't help rhyming it with Tizer) who attended Salten House, a girls' school in a remote and vividly drawn coastal location, seventeen years earlier, where she formed an intense friendship with Fatima, Thea and Kate. It's described by others as a clique, and it certainly is that, excluding and indeed alienating others, not least by their enjoyment of the "Lying Game" - inventing elaborate stories with which to deceive others. Mainly, harmless. Sometimes, not.

Out of school, the girls spend most of their time at the Tide Mill, the dilapidated nearby home of Kate, her artist father Ambrose, and stepbrother Luc, and it is here that most of the drama takes place, until everything shockingly falls apart.

Seventeen years on, Isa and the others are summoned back to Salten by a three word text from Kate - "I need you". The past is returning to haunt them. But are their memories of what happened real, or are they also lies?

Ruth Ware really shines on building the atmospheric location - the salt marsh, the Reach, the Tide Mill - and also on the experience of early motherhood - Isa's bond with her baby daughter, Freya, and the feelings generated by conflict with the needs and demands of others, especially as she becomes more enmeshed in her own lies, are beautifully drawn.

As I said, I found it something of a slow burner - while I liked the characters and the setting, and the book is very well written, it took time to get really engrossed in the plot. However from about half way through, momentum seemed to gather and it became genuinely gripping.

A recommended read!

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