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Liars and Saints Paperback – 28 May 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; New Ed edition (28 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719566452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719566455
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Opening with a wedding and ending with a funeral, Liars and Saints is stuffed to bursting point, yet manages to maintain a cool, elegant prose style throughout. Liars and Saints, Meloy's debut novel, following her story collection Half in Love, chronicles the life of the Santerre family, who sin with the gusto of true Catholics. Written in a series of short story-like vignettes, the family's saga is told in turn by every member, from Yvette the matriarch down to TJ, her great-grandson. We start out with a relatively run of the mill family secret, when in the 1950s Yvette sends daughter Margot off to a French convent for the duration of her teenage pregnancy. As the decades pass, the transgressions become wilder and more melodramatic, as if the Santerres are trying to keep up with the times by way of their naughty acts. What makes the novel work is that, all the while, Meloy maintains a quiet, slightly wry tone: illicit lovemaking and Bloody Mary mixing are recounted with the same equanimity. She also gets just right the tone of each era. When Yvette's other daughter Clarissa marries a jolly lawyer in the early 60s, he sends a telegram to Yvette: "HITCHED. THANKS FOR BEAUTIFUL DAUGHER. PROGENY PROMISED TO POPE." Similarly, in the 1970s the characters talk just groovily enough, and those of the 80s have a wised-up ring to their conversation. Most multi-generational sagas are dull forays into sentimentalism, but in the aptly titled Liars and Saints, Meloy has written a corker. --Claire Dederer, Amazon.com

Review

This remarkably assured debut novel ... succeeds in being both intimate in feel and broad in outlook ... moving, compassionate and amusing (Daily Mail)

Meloy has written an exquisite novel about the power of secrets -- and the redemption found in religion and love (Glamour)

A tale worthy of the Greeks ... While there is plenty of feeling its pages, none of it crystallises into sentimentality ... spare, sturdy prose (Observer)

Maile Meloy writes with both fearlessness and true compassion (Ann Patchett)

A beautifully written story about ordinary American life that's anything but ordinary (Company Magazine)

Wise, witty, and beautifully written, Liars and Saints is that rare and wondrous thing: a literary novel you don't want to put down (Helen Fielding)

A spectacular first novel (New York Times)

Most multi-generational sagas are dull forays into sentimentalism, but in the aptly titled Liars and Saints, Meloy has written a corker (Amazon.com)

An irresistable tale that will stay with you long after your tan has faded (Mail on Sunday)

Quiet, unastonished precision ... an impressive achievement (Philip Roth)

All the outrageous twists ... of a soap opera. But Meloy writes with such delicate insight that somehow you believe in it, even as you race to the last page. (Marie Claire)

The best of the bunch ... a fine book (The Scotsman)

For a first-time novelist, she is astonishingly poised, moving through a large cast and a long chronology with a light, assured touch ... sharp and vivid detail (Lindesay Irvine, Press Association)

Sparse, gentle prose ... a lovely debut, treading a delicate balance between epic family saga and minutely observed literary portrait (Spectator)

Meloy gives her story shape and depth by writing from each character's point of view ... there is something refreshingly conservative about the design of this novel (Independent)

It's funny and moving and looks likely to appeal to the thousands of readers who read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. (Radio Times)

Packed from start to finish, this is an excellent debut novel from Meloy and a real pleasure to read (Lucky Break magazine)

It makes you think long after you've finished it ... it's earned fantastic reviews and is worth a read (Woman)

The novel's success lies in Meloy's emotional literacy. There is an unflashy intelligence underpinning her writing ... which makes her ordinary, flawed characters breathe. Lies and their consequences propel the plot convincingly ... In its examination of the gap between faith and free will, Meloy has written a compelling debut about the search for truth. (Literary Review)

An absolute delight ... an unfussy and unshowy narrative ... effortlessly charming and engaging the reader without relentlessly flaggging up the skill involved ... a fresh and welcoming perspective on the aspirations and disappointments of the post-war generation ... a powerful love-letter to family bonds, ably illustrating the insidious nature of a Catholic upbringing (Zembla magazine)

Certain to be a huge hit ... This touching narrative speaks of love and tragedy, nagging guilt and prejudice, which is sensitively dealt with by this talented novelist (Devon Today)

Moving, sometimes funny, sensitively told, it is a mini-epic demonstrating the scope of tragedy in the absence of truth (Oxford Times)

This remarkably assured debut novel ... succeeds in being both intimate in feel and broad in outlook, without becoming dragged down by detail. ... Meloy lets the story move forward with such fluidity that, despite the brisk pace and sudden switches of perspective, there is no lessening of impact. In turns moving, compassionate and amusing, it creates an emotional resonance that lasts long after the last page. (Daily Mail)

A tale worthy of the Greeks ... By the novel's close, Meloy's gallop through births, marriages and deaths leaves even her panting, but this choppy structure is what makes Liars and Saints interesting. While there is plenty of feeling its pages, none of it crystallises into sentimentality, forcing the reader to take the long view, even as her spare, sturdy prose springs sadness and heartbreak upon us. (Observer)

The quiet, unastonished precision with which Maile Meloy depicts the extent to which everything now goes haywire in so-called ordinary American life is an impressive achievement, literary and otherwise (Philip Roth)

Meloy, with her sparse, gentle prose, takes her tale very seriously indeed ... she is a keen observer of human emotion, but here she diffuses any potential melodrama ... a lovely debut, treading a delicate balance between epic family saga and minutely observed literary portrait. (Spectator)

There is plenty to praise in this sparingly rendered, relentlessly plotted rendition of Catholic family life ... it has a narrative which is swift and supple enough to unfold fifty years of disappointed expectations without recourse to sentiment ... Understatement is one of her greatest assets; it gives her narrative an authority which neither the brisk elision of years nor the obscure motives of her characters can undermine ... deftly written and insightful ... thoroughly readable ... impeccably plausible (Times Literary Supplement)

A constantly entertaining American family saga. (Red Magazine)

If Liars and Saints doesn't win, then there's no justice in the world! (Optima)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 July 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this after seeing it reviewed in the Daily Mail and am pleased it was selected by Richard and Judy because it's the sort of unshowy book which might have fallen through the cracks otherwise. It's misleading to call it a family saga because although it covers 50 years in the history of a family it is a fairly slim volume without a great panoramic sweep. It's beautifully written and the characters are completely convincing, from Yvette and Teddy down through the subsequent generations. Liars and Saints is about the confusions and turbulence and complications of family life, what a mess we often make of it but how we muddle through anyway. It reminded me a little of Alice Hoffman's books although the writing is not nearly so flowery. In short, I enjoyed it very much and look forward to reading more by this author.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 July 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of the finest and most compelling books I've read in a long time. I bought it due to the Richard & Judy recommendation and when I read the first chapter I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, fearing it might be an old-fashioned saga. But, 50 taut pages later, I realised there was a lot more to 'Liars and Saints' than just a saga. I was reminded a little of John Irving; the book explores a family that seems ordinary on the outside but is teaming with dysfunctional secrets that passes on its problems from one generation to the next. The writing is pared down, spare and beautiful. The way that the author shifts points of view and demonstrates the characters misunderstandings of each other is brilliant, and results in some of the deepest characterisation I've enjoyed in a long time.
Puzzlingly enough, when this book was picked for R&J it was described in the Guardian as being firmly 'lightweight entertainment' and a love story - perhaps because it was written by a woman. Nothing could be further from the truth; calling this 'light entertainment' is rather like calling Jonathan Franzen's 'The Correction' lad-lit. This is a finely crafted literary novel, and love is just one of many themes that it dissects in a detached but compassionate way. All in all, an excellent novel, and much better than Cecilia's Ahern's offering.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 July 2004
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book which I feel should be regarded as a light(ish) read. Albeit that the author does gallop along somewhat it doesn't detract, in my opinion, from the pure entertainment of the book. I had expected a story about dodgy catholic priests or the like but it's not at all like that and I found the interjection of the first character's journey of faith quite beautiful. EAch subsequent character has their own journey through life and I like the way the author develops them as they grow. A really nice book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "glitzydebs" on 2 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback
...However it didn't live up to the expectations. We are told that the family are haunted by the photographer's actions for years to come. It is never mentioned again!! The family ambles on through thick and thin and all kinds of sad happenings but it never really goes anywhere. I couldn't understand why they all hated each other. see if you can. Readable but certainly not a classic and one you can put down. Dissapointing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mme C. Monks on 5 April 2010
Format: Paperback
People were born, grew up and died. Women who wanted children couldn't and those that didn't got pregnant the first time they had sex. No mystery, no surprises, not funny or profoundly moving. Far from finding any depth to the characters, I thought they lurched through their lives doing very little of interest. A very dull read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By userronie on 26 Aug. 2004
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be gripping and I read it in 2 days. If you are a 'family' person and will be able to empathise with the characters complex family life, then you will enjoy this book. It moved along quickly (leaving me wanting more detail in some instances) and made me laugh and cry. A heart-warming, easy read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
The book although compelling in an "I've started so I'll finish way" for me never really went in very deep with any of the characters, for example the books lets you know that the sisters weren't very close and there seemed to be resentment, but you never really got to know why, similarily the feelings and narratives for the characters never seemed to explain what their real motivations were about. I expected a little more detail and depth.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 May 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is a 'nice read'. I found myself wanting to know what would happen, sympathising (or disliking where appropriate) with the characters, and generally doing everything one should with a good book. It's not ground-breaking, or heart-wrenching, it's sad at times, happy at others and, I found, a nice little book to read on holiday.
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