The title of Lisa Jewell’s latest book, None of This is True could be seen as offering readers a huge spoiler. And it does and it doesn’t. It – along with the blurb however – warns us that trusting Josie Fair comes with some risks. But Jewell manages to unravel Josie’s story in a way that keeps readers guessing. The book itself unfolds in the present (at the time of [ahem] certain events), and later… when all of the stories have been told and secrets apparently revealed.None of This Is True
by Jewell Lisa
Published by Penguin
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
The paths of two women — Alix Summer and Josie Fair — cross when they are out celebrating their birthdays in the same restaurant.
Big coincidence: they are birthday twins; not only this — they were born in the same hospital.
Alix is a journalist and podcaster. Could this be her next subject, she wonders: the story of two women who share the same birthday but whose lives could not be more different.
But slowly Alix starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it Josie has inveigled her way into Alix's life — and into her home.
Soon Alix starts to worry that Josie will never leave.
But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that her family is in more danger than she ever thought possible ...
Most of this unfolds from Josie and Alix’s points of view. The latter has no agenda. She’s honest with us in her thoughts about her relationship and life.
We learn very early that Josie is unhappy with her lot in life. It’s not overt – she opens her narrative talking about her (much older) husband and their two adult daughters. Walter is retired but Josie works part-time in a job she seemingly enjoys. They seem financially secure. But then she comes across Alix…
As the words leave her mouth, Josie feels the gnawing sense of grief that she has experienced for most of her life rush through her. She’s never found anything to pin the feeling to before; she never knew what it meant. But now she knows what it means.
It means she’s wrong, that everything, literally everything, about her is wrong and that she’s running out of time to make herself right. p 13
The backcover blurb on my book indicates the idea for a podcast featuring Josie – a woman about to change her life – comes from Alix, but the proposal most certainly comes from Josie. The question of course for readers (and Alix) is ‘how’ Josie is intending to change her life.
Initially reticent, Josie hooks Alix with some juicy information about the genesis of her marriage (ie. age gap) and then slowly ingratiates her way into Alix’s life.
Jewell uses a range of plot devices here including snippets of interviews from a Netflix show filmed a couple of years after the initial meetings take place. We learn early that lives were lost but of course have to wait to learn the who, how and why.
What I loved most about this book is that I really couldn’t make my mind up about Josie. Some of what she shares in podcast interviews is certainly true but there seems to be no fathomable reason she’d make up other elements – other than to ingratiate herself to podcaster Alix (single white female-style) or be desperate for attention (Munchausen-style). And yet… ‘later’ we hear contrasting stories about her life and her family. So I think that’s the genius here, we’re JUST NOT SURE.
Josie’s husband Walter describes his wife’s relationship with the truth as ‘elastic’.
When she doesn’t like the reality of things, she finds a reality she prefers. p 165
So I wondered… is a lie a lie if its teller doesn’t believe it is?
Of course we’re conscious that the snippets (from the future) are delivered with the benefit of hindsight, but also tainted by the events of the time and the stories that emerged.
In some ways this is like the proverbial car/train crash you can see coming but can’t stop and Jewell paces this book brilliantly. Other than potentially wanting to be free of her marriage it’s hard to understand Josie’s motivation so I found it hard to predict what might happen. I mean, I guessed at part of it, but other reveals were well-timed and shockingly delivered. And even when I finished I was left a little perplexed. In a good way.
None of This is True by Lisa Jewell will be published in Australia by Penguin (Century Imprint) and available from 20 July 2023.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.