Short review for those who are in a hurry:
If you enjoy reading, you'll enjoy this book. Read it!
Shortish review for those who don't want the detail:
All the things that make a great book are here. There's a good story, wonderfully crafted writing, a perfect pace and this novel is just as long as it needs to be. Read it!
Longer review for those who are kind enough to let me indulge myself:
Maybe it's just me but I love a novel with a family tree at its beginning. It suggests to me the kind of epic that I used to enjoy from John Irving, something I can really get my teeth into, and The White Lie doesn't disappoint. I won't tell the story here - you can buy the book for that - but the family saga starts off with an immediately intriguing entrée into one of those apparently wealthy families much favoured by Iain Banks.
The story gathers pace slowly, although the quality of the writing and the detail of the characters and setting is so absorbing that the gentle gain in momentum isn't immediately apparent. Indeed, this is one of those books I could enjoy reading even if nothing really happened. But there is a story and it slowly becomes more intense as the book progresses, accelerating to a point of fever pitch before catching its breath and descending into a post-climactic peace and resolution.
All the way through, Andrea Gillies' writing is beautifully judged, always considered but with a lightness of touch and occasional humour that makes it a pleasure to read. It is a book I came to inhabit so that on finishing it, I felt slightly disoriented, as if I'd left somewhere without properly saying my goodbyes. In fact, the characterisation is so strong that I found myself wondering what happened to the story's inhabitants after the book had ended.
Of course, I can't say it will be everyone's cup of tea but there's only one way you'll find out and that is to read it!
on 27 February 2012
A wonderful book, beautifully written. Exceptionally descriptive with a haunting plot. This book is all about the consequences of telling a white lie and how they last a life time. The Salter family are all living with a secret that is slowly destroying them and their relationships. A party to celebrate a special birthday brings all the family back together and the secrets slowly unravel. It would make a wonderful film or television series.
on 2 February 2012
Peattie, seat of the Salter family, is a remote and isolated estate in the Scottish highlands, the old house frozen in time like a fairytale castle.
But no beauty sleeps at the heart of Peattie. Instead there lies a grim secret, guarded for years by a family conspiracy of falsehood and silence.
The result is that the Salters share a complex psychological burden of sorrow, guilt and deceit. What will happen when the burden becomes too much to bear? As their unholy alliance begins to crumble, the truth acquires its own terrible momentum. The family must face the consequences as fact unravels from fiction, myth from memory, destroying the tangled, protective web they had so carefully constructed.
Andrea Gillies is the prize-winning author of Keeper, an account of life with her mother-in-law Nancy, who suffered from Alzheimer's. The White Lie is her dark and compelling first novel. Intricately plotted, gracefully executed and peopled with a cast of satisfyingly flawed and dysfunctional characters, it transports the reader, Tardis-like, backwards and forwards through time, piecing together the mystery at the centre of the Salter family through the eyes of its narrator, Michael. Throughout, Gillies writes with elegance, conjuring a vivid sense of place, gripping the reader as the plot moves sinuously between past and present and lightening the sinister atmosphere with occasional flashes of sly humour that sparkle like unexpected sunlight on the surface of Peattie loch.
Keep a marker at the Salter family tree, a useful Who's Who of the dramatis personae.
on 25 September 2012
I picked up this book with eager anticipation, but by the time I was half way through I had no idea what my review was going to consist of when I arrived at the end. I found that sometimes I would pick it up and enjoy reading, other times I would feel irritated by it and find it difficult to concentrate on what I was reading. Now the last page has been turned I'm not really much wiser.
The author uses very original language in the descriptive passages which is alternately either very entertaining and illuminating, or rather obscure. I did, however, have the house, loch, and gardens very firmly in my mind, and the atmosphere created is appropriately gloomy and mysterious, with the plot having its fair share of red herrings and surprises as the suspense builds.
What let it down for me was the characterisation. The reader is told so little about the characters that it is difficult to relate to them. They are all rather odd, as might be expected in the context of the story, but there is no warmth between them at all, no love expressed; just secrets, lies and denial. There are many rifts between family members, and I found it all very cold and easy to distance myself from emotionally. Only Mog felt like a real person to me, and some of those on the family tree could have been dispensed with altogether, as they might be referred to occasionally, but actually have no role in the plot. Some of the strands of the story feel rather disjointed as well, and in a few cases irrelevant.
I didn't find the characters confusing, although this is a large family, but I did struggle with the various versions of events told by some of the characters at different points in the story. According to who was deceiving who at the time for whatever motive, details of events changed, and this I found difficult to keep track of. I think the strength of the story lies in its moral. Where there are lies, white or otherwise, there are consequences. Deceit and denial create isolated, fearful and stilted lives, as the burden of secrecy becomes hard to carry. These behaviours are the bedrock upon which dysfunctional lives are built and this comes across very clearly.
This author clearly has talent, but her writing style is just not to my taste. I felt at times the writing was trying to be too clever, and it didn't quite come off for me.
on 8 February 2012
This is a fascinating portrayal of a family and it's history and the slow unravelling of a dark secret from the past. Beautifully written and with wonderful atmosphere and sense of place, I found it so mesmerising that I read it all in one day unable to put it down. Now I want to read it again more slowly. This is the rare kind of book that you find yourself thinking about for days after you have finished it. It has so many twists and turns an red herrings that it's almost, but not quite, disappointing when the whole story becomes clear. Beautifully written. Buy it. It's the kind of book you will read over and over. it would alsomake a fabulous film, which is not something I would often say about a book!
on 30 June 2012
It is incredibly rare for me to give up part way through a book, and I persevered over half way through this, but the n I just couldn't carry on. God it's dull. I couldn't keep track of the characters (of whom there were far too many, and not a single likeable one amongst them), and more importantly, couldn't have cared less who killed Michael. I suspect the writer has some talent - her use of words was at times rather lovely, but this felt like a badly planned book, which just rambled without really going anywhere.
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.
on 18 April 2012
I enjoyed reading this rather complex book. I thought the characterisations were good and love the idea of the dead narrator. It reminded me of The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold but, whereas I cared about Susie in that book I really didn't care about any of Gillies characters at all, including the victim Michael. So a good story well written with lots of blind alleys but not emotionally involving as far as I'm concerned. I would, however, recommend it and will certainly be on the look out for other books by this author.
on 23 June 2012
The White Lie has the ignominious distinction of being the first book this year that I have failed to finish, and only the second novel in the last two years.
The novel is the story of the Salter extended family. It's narrator Michael is dead, and his death and the complex circumstances around it continue to haunt the family. I began the book and read about 25% of it according to my Kindle, but I wasn't enjoying it. I didn't like the style, nor the characters, found the plot though initially intriguing lacking in credibility, that such a big scandal could or particularly WOULD be covered up by such a large number of people of all ages over such an extended period of time. I also found the relationship definitions (as in who is whose sister, cousin etc) between characters confusing. The Family Tree which is really necessary is more difficult to keep track of on an e reader.
I left it and read something else, but I found when I re-opened it and came back to it, I just didn't want to carry on, I didn't care and I wasn't engaged, and I simply couldn't face plodding on interminably over what was a large percentage of book remaining. Life's too short, I'll never get those hours back. I bought this novel because of the sheer amount of 5 star reviews on here, and now find myself utterly amazed by them, I don't know what I missed that seemed to click with so many, but blimey this book was boring. Not for me.
on 29 February 2012
'The White Lie' has recieved excellent reviews from the likes of the Times and Scotland on Sunday, and multi-faceted and with startling imagry, this story of the Salter family by the award winning author of 'Keeper' does not disappoint. From the ever changing vistas of the loch, through sanctuary wood, past the thick hedges keeping an ever encroaching world at bay to the very steps of the grand decaying house itself with all the characters inside awaiting - what, the tone throughout is pitch perfect. The family lives all unravel over a summer as events caused by a hidden tradgedy long ago catch up with them all. The story is narrated from beyond the grave by the only person with a complete Overview of events - by Micheal, the youth who has drowned in the loch in mysterious circumstances. With themes such as repressed grief, guilt memory and deciet playing out across its pages this is a great book. One of the best this year, I bet!