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Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave...
on 22 February 2012
After her prize-winning non-fiction work, Andrea Gillies turns her hand to fiction writing with this gripping debut novel 'The White Lie', a story of secrets, deceptions and family tensions and a wonderfully atmospheric and absorbing read. The Salters have lived at Peattie, a large estate in Scotland, complete with its own loch for generations and, being gentry, consider themselves to be practically a law unto themselves. One summer's day, Ursula Salter crashes into the drawing room, where the family are assembled, and confesses that she has killed her nineteen-year-old nephew, Michael. Ursula's older sister Ottilie, who is Michael's mother, and her twin sister, Joan, are aghast, as is their mother, Edith, their father, Henry, and the rest of the Salter clan. However, Ursula, as the family say, has her 'peculiarities' and gets confused, so the family are not entirely sure that she is telling the truth - but when Alan, the family handyman-gardener, follows Ursula into the house and corroborates her story, saying that she pushed Michael into the loch and then hit him repeatedly with an oar, the family has to deal with the situation in the only way they know how. And that is to cover up the tragedy with an alternative version of events in order to protect Ursula. But what actually happened? No body can be found - did Ursula really kill Michael? And what about Sebastian - Ottalie, Joan and Ursula's younger brother, who was drowned when he was four years old - what really happened to him?
This is a very gripping tale, with a large cast of skilfully created characters (there is a family tree at the beginning of the book to avoid confusion) and a strong narrative drive. Andrea Gillies has written an unusual, unsettling and intelligent novel - a story of claustrophobic family feuds, rivalries and deceptions and a story which keeps the reader guessing right to the end (and kept me up until the early hours so that I could finish the book). 'The White Lie' is a very compelling read and one I am happy to recommend - I shall certainly be looking out for Andrea Gillies next novel.