Book review: Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay

Friday, April 24, 2020 Permalink

Debut author Elizabeth Kay works in the publishing industry so knows what works and what doesn’t.

It’s obvious our host Jane is one of the increasingly popular ‘unreliable’ narrators. She tells us that herself at the beginning. About the lies she’s told and what happens as a result. My own thoughts on Jane changed and morphed however… there’s a reluctance initially, to engage. But then we get to know her. We learn her story and it’s hard not to warm to her and like her. But then… well, then things change again. And if you’re like me you can kinda sympathise yet grimace at the same time!

Book review: Seven Lies by Elizabeth KaySeven Lies
by Elizabeth Kay
Published by Sphere
on 16/04/2020
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 0751578126, 9780751578126
Pages: 400

Growing up, Jane and Marnie shared everything. They knew the other’s deepest secrets. They wouldn’t have had it any other way. But when Marnie falls in love, things begin to change.

Because Jane has a secret: she loathes Marnie’s wealthy, priggish husband. So when Marnie asks if she likes him, Jane tells her first lie. After all, even best friends keep some things to themselves. If she had been honest, then perhaps her best friend’s husband might still be alive today…

For, of course, it’s not the last lie. In fact, it’s only the beginning…

Jane makes no secrets of her lies, so Kay builds that sense of distrust early in the book. In fact, when we first meet Jane her portrayal of Marnie borders on the obsessive. Surely she’s in love with her, I thought. But of course their relationship (and how each of them perceives it) is probably one of the most thought-provoking things about this book… but more on that later.

It’d be easy to think Jane is just jealous that her friend’s found love, as it’s something she doesn’t have herself. But we quickly learn that’s not the case. Indeed, if we’re talking about friends dumping friendships for romantic relationships, well…. Jane doesn’t have a leg to stand on. And I won’t say more about that, as ‘that’ part came as a huge surprise.

So the question remains, whether her dislike of Charles, Marnie’s boyfriend / fiance / husband is indeed about Charles himself, or would she be the same with anyone who entered her friend’s life and became the most important person in it.

We are never so at ease now as we were back then. Our worlds are no longer entwined. I am now an intermittent guest in the story of her life. Our friendship is no longer its own independent thing, but a skin tag, a protrusion that subsists within another love.

I did not think then – and I do not think now – that Marnie and Charles had a greater love than ours. And yet, I understand implicitly that their love – romantic love – would and must subsume ours. p 17

Which brings me back to the thing I found most interesting… the concept of ‘love’. And friendship vs love. Romantic love vs platonic love. I realise the ‘versus’ doesn’t need to be there. Most people would argue both are possible.

As someone who’s always been single, I’ve had many friends ‘disappear’ from my life once they formed a romantic relationship. And sure, I’ve probably been resentful (rather than jealous) but I always ALWAYS knew it was inevitable. That person… usually first a lover or partner (and then a family) comes first and it’s the way it should be. I suspect there’s some happy medium where people don’t completely ‘dump’ friends because they form relationships but there are a lot of dependencies, especially around stages of life and how they fit into each others’ worlds.

You know what they say, and it’s what everyone always says, to never give up your friends for a man, but it doesn’t matter because everyone does. Friendships are one thing, but a true love, a romantic love? That trumps everything. Always has. Always will. p 142

It’s understandable that those with young kids usually become friends with others with young kids. And I know a lot of friends who have more free time once they are empty nesters, or separate from partners etc. It’s almost a circle of life thing in many ways.

We really only see Charles through Jane’s eyes, so it’s hard to get an untainted picture of what he is like. Kay cleverly doesn’t share more than she needs to. So even if —through Jane’s narration—we try to be objective, we readers bring with us our own baggage. Some may dislike Charles more than others. He might trigger something in some. Or others might view him more sympathetically.

Similarly we really only see Marnie through Jane’s rose-coloured glasses. And well…. like Charles, Kay gives readers some insight and lets us draw our own conclusions.

This is billed as a thriller, and it is. Kinda. Of course Charles could die of natural causes, we think as we race through Jane and Marnie’s story.

But it’s really a story about relationships. And friendships.

It is intoxicating to be so needed, to crave someone so acutely, and that feeling of being so completely entwined. But these early bonds are unsustainable. And someday you will choose to extricate yourself from this friendship in pursuit, instead, of lovers. You will extract yourself limb by limb, bone by bone, memory from memory, until you can exist independently, until you are again one person where once you were two. p 14

It has to be said that Jane’s life could have been very different. Except for an act of fate which changed everything. She has many layers and I pondered if or how she’s changed over recent years (and during her 18 year friendship with Marnie). We learn, for example, a little about her childhood and see it reflected in her adult relationship with her mother and sister. There’s also an underlying theme of how we perceive ourselves and allow ourselves to be defined by others.

I enjoyed Kay’s writing. It’s eloquent and makes reading effortless. It’s written in first person, but sometimes feels like second person and the ‘why’ of this becomes more obvious towards the end of the novel.

This is an intriguing novel and one that takes readers on an interesting ‘journey’ in which we have to interpret the actions and motivations of our players through a schism of an honest but flawed narrator and our own beliefs and experiences.

Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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