The Lies We Tell
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
Tom and Sarah are a most unlikely couple. Tom is an actuary, a staid, conventional man who loves routine, listens to Mozart, owns his own home, doesn’t drink, is socially awkward and sexually inexperienced. Sarah was brought up in a commune until she was eight and then by a strict, childless aunt and uncle.
She loves to dress in bohemian clothing, listens to Pearl Jam, lives in a messy rented apartment, enjoys sex and alcohol and has tried more than one or two drugs. When they meet at a life drawing class Sarah is teaching, Tom is attracted to her happy, outgoing nature, unlike anyone he has met before and to Sarah, Tom seems secure and dependable, something she’s never had in her life. But both of them have secrets they want to keep buried in the past.
Despite Tom’s stuffy friends Hugo and Olivia warning him that Sarah is a gold digger they marry and after several miscarriages Freddie is born. He’s an adorable baby and child and Tom is happy to leave much of his upbringing and disciplining to Sarah, while is away long hours at work and she works as an artist. However, by the time he is fifteen Freddie has become a rebellious, rude teenager, mixing with a bad crowd and flouting Sarah’s rues. One night, he comes home very late to tell them that something really bad has happened, although refuses to tell them any details. Tom wants to call the police immediately, while Sarah is determined to do everything she can to protect her son as long as possible.
This slow burning domestic drama is an emotional character driven mystery asking the question of how far a mother should be prepared to go to protect her child. The effects of prolonged lying in a relationship will be devastating and eventually blow this family apart. The narrative is told in two timelines, that of the past as well as the present time where a man is on trial for murder in Truro Crown Court. The novel is well paced and while it takes a little time to see how these two threads link up, both stories make for absorbing reading. The event that destroys the family will in the end prove to be transformative for all of them and during the course of the novel each of the characters, Tom, Sarah and Freddie, will not only learn to face their past mistakes but also to accept themselves and their flaws.
With thanks to Penguin and NetGalley for a copy to read. Publication expected July 17, 2021.