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Book Review: ‘The Lies You Told’ by Harriet Tyce

Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Harriet Tyce’s latest thriller, ‘The Lies You Told’. I loved Tyce’s debut novel so had high expectations for this one – and I wasn’t disappointed! Keep reading to discover my thoughts…

Sadie loves her daughter and will do anything to keep her safe.

She can’t tell her why they had to leave home so quickly – or why Robin’s father won’t be coming with them to London.

She can’t tell her why she hates being back in her dead mother’s house, with its ivy-covered walls and its poisonous memories.

And she can’t tell her the truth about the school Robin’s set to start at – a school that doesn’t welcome newcomers.

Sadie just wants to get their lives back on track.

But even lies with the best intentions can have deadly consequences…

‘The Lies You Told’ (August 2020) is Harriet Tyce’s second novel, following on from ‘Blood Orange’ (2019). Harriet Tyce was born and grew up in Edinburgh. She graduated from the University of Oxford in 1994 with a degree in English Literature before gaining legal qualifications. She worked as a criminal barrister for ten years, leaving after the birth of her first child. She completed an MA in Creative Writing – Crime Fiction at UEA where she wrote Blood Orange, which is her first novel.

The novel has received rave reviews, from the likes of Stylist: “A gripping and intelligent thriller” and Independent: “This thriller is impossible to put down”. Many fellow authors have also praised the book, such as Alex Michaelides: “A slow-burning mystery, full of intrigue and menace, it creeps up on you until that final explosive twist”, Shari Lapena: “A breathless read – with a shocker of an ending!”, Lisa Jewell: “It’s spare and taut, the sense of wrongness building in chilling, skilfully written layers, with a jaw dropping last line twist” and John Marrs: “An absolute page turner with a twist you’ll read twice because you can’t believe you missed it”.

‘The Lies You Told’ follows the lives of Sadie and Robin, as they move back from America to London and struggle to get to grips with their new surroundings. It soon becomes clear that Sadie’s previous school (now Robin’s) and the other mothers are poison – will Sadie be able to protect her daughter, before something really bad happens to her?

The narrative is told from the first-person perspective of Sadie throughout. The reader is given an in-depth insight into her thoughts, feelings and emotions as she navigates her way through a major life change. The narrative is mostly told in the present day, with some allusions to the past. Overall, the narrative is really easy to follow, yet still very effective.

Sadie is definitely my favourite character in the novel because she is just SO relatable. Sadie is very protective of her daughter Robin, and will do anything to keep her safe. She has a turbulent relationship with her teenager daughter, and the new move creates even more tension and distance between them. Sadie struggles with the move, as she is forced to live back in her childhood home and send Robin to her childhood school – a time which brings back a lot of unhappy memories for her. She also begins a new job as a junior in court, after not practicing for many years. Sadie always holds it together and acts strong in front of her daughter, but in reality she is really struggling. When she befriends a few other mothers at the school, things start to look up for Sadie; but these friends aren’t all they make themselves out to be. Sadie is a very well-written, three-dimensional character, and I related to her on many levels.

Sadie’s daughter Robin is just your average teenage girl. She has been forced to move to a new country and a new school, and understandably the move causes a lot of animosity between her and her mother. She’s angry and upset at being made to move, and it takes her a long time to settle into the school and make friends. Robin lashes out at her mother and often blames her for her unhappiness, just as you’d expect a typical teenager to do. But then Robin begins to make some friends at school and really starts to come out of her shell, which is really lovely to see. However, Robin needs to be careful about who she gets close to, as her new “friends” may not really be all that kind… Robin is another well-written character, and I really enjoyed discovering more about her as the novel went on.

** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) Throughout the novel, the theme of sexual assault and rape is explored in great detail, as a sexual assault case is taken to court. The theme of child abduction and kidnapping is also depicted in great detail, as one of the character’s is held against her will by one of the mothers. Finally, the theme of substance abuse is also explored throughout the novel, particularly drug use. All of these issues are explored with appropriate sensitivity – but if you feel that they may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.

As the narrative motors onwards, the characters’ find themselves in a very dangerous situation, and they must work hard to uncover the truth about the school and the students/parents that go there. Robin’s new friends begin to act strangely, and Sadie is keeping a lot of secrets buried beneath the surface. Will they find out the truth, before it’s too late?

So, let’s talk about the ending. There’s a really dramatic twist that completely changes the course of the novel. The final events of the novel are extremely shocking and I could have never seen that coming! Unfortunately I wasn’t a big fan of the ending, as I found the “big reveal” to be very exaggerated and unbelievable. It seemed too far-fetched and I just didn’t buy it! I really wasn’t satisfied by the ending, and felt quite disappointed with how all the events were finally tied together.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel to all of you out there who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly if you’re interested in reading about secrets and lies. The book is a bit of a slow-burner but still very addictive, and I was hooked throughout the novel. I really enjoyed reading the events from Sadie’s point of view, and I thought that she was an excellently-written character. Unfortunately the ending just didn’t do it for me – but perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did!

Happy reading 🙂

6 thoughts on “Book Review: ‘The Lies You Told’ by Harriet Tyce

  1. Hmm! Interesting! I liked this book, but it was quite boring at times. I agree on all of your points. The ending shocked me quite a bit, but I really wished we’d had more time to explore it. Thank you for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

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