A decade of deceit begins. Narrated by Michael from beyond the grave, Andrea Gillies' debut novel unpicks the mesh of lies, some white, some not, that entangle the Salters, bringing the closed world of the big house to life with cinematic clarity. But what is the white lie? Is it that Michael is not actually dead? Gillies investigates all the bonds and all the animosities in a large family. He relates the events that happened on the day of his claimed drowning by his disturbed aunt Ursula, and how the family decide to hush it up to protect Ursula. Maybe I just really didn't care for it, or for any of the characters much at all, who come off not as protective of their family legacy but as just delusional in their lies. It had me jumping everywhere all over. The narrator of the book, Michael, tells his story, supposedly from beyond the grave.
Narrated by Michael from beyond the grave, Andrea Gillies's first venture into fiction after Keeper, her Orwell Prize-winning Alzheimer's memoir, unpicks the mesh of lies, some white, some not, that entangle the Salters. I wanted to like this more but, nope. Not only did it have a series of glowing reviews but had an interesting premise. Michael, the narrator, admits to being dead from the start, and he tells his tale slowly, hesitantly, picking through the motives and emotions of his family for clues. The White Lie is her brilliantly dark and compelling first novel. The web begins to unravel.
Yes, novelists reveal when it is dramatically necessary, and better yet, not have it come off as manipulation of story, but that is not the case here. If such a category existed, I'd call it a 'psychological family thriller'. His death isn't the only one to haunt his mother Ottilie, years before she had been at the beach when her young brother Sebastian also met his death in the water. The driving central narrative, which returns time and again to what happened on the loch that day, gradually reveals not just the truth of Michael's death, but the insidious lies which corrode the Salters' carefully constructed myth of family. If you're on Facebook, visit her for up to date news. For Michael tells this story in much the same way that an artist paints a picture. I remember playing in the gardens at about the age of four, running along the sides of high topiary hedges.
Only one person knows the whole truth. All the rest of it — all of that I can only speculate about. Is he tolerant about the effort required?. A family of self-obsessed, dysfunctional misfits who lied their way through life to avoid the what they perceived to be mundane reality. A stunning debut novel from the winner of the Orwell Prize 2010 and the inaugural Wellcome Trust Book Prize 2009 On a hot summer's afternoon, Ursula Salter runs sobbing from the loch on her parents' Scottish estate and confesses, distraught, that she has killed Michael, her 19 year old nephew.
A gripping exploration of the stories families tell about themselves, myths sometimes more potent than the truth. I feel like it took me forever to read because I had to go back every couple pages to see if I was in a flash back or present, and remember who the characters were. I don't find it easy giving up on books and I persevered and read it all the way through. A decade of deceit begins. Gillies relishes the absurdities of dialogue. The prominent theme of the novel is the ever converging space between truth and fantasy.
Wait till you read the book and get to that place. It is also, finally, very moving. The narration is handled with masterly skill. The writing was beautiful and dense and thus took me longer than usual to finish. The happenings of one summer's day on Peattie Loch, nestling at the heart of the cumbling Salter estate, between Michael Salter and his peculiar, dreamy aunt Ursula, are shrouded in a web of half-truths and white lies the Salter family have woven in a vain attempt to hold together their fracturing family. From beyond the grave, Michael loops back into the past until we see, beyond perception and memory, how deeply our decisions resound, and just what is the place, and price, of grandeur. What follows are endless conversations like this: - So-and-so came to talk to me.
It really didn't pick up for me until the last 50 pages. There is also the question of which secrets to keep secret and which to divulge, not to mention the false secrets they tell in order to divert attention from the real ones. The writing itself was rather lovely with some beautiful descriptive passages but dear God the characters were awful. I feel that the story could have been told in a lot less pages and would have been a far more gripping book. It is a fine debut novel. A decade of deceit begins. Ursula Salter claims to have killed her beautiful, angry young cousin Michael on the loch of her family's Highland estate.
I found the climax both satisfying and very moving. I feel like it took me forever to read because I had to go back every couple pages to see if I was in a flash back or present, and remember who the characters were. We're also made to see that Michael's death, far from signalling the start of the Salter's connivance, merely causes the latest flowering of it, and is actually the outcome of earlier tragic events. Narrated by Michael who was either killed or has gone missing, this story rambles on and on. It's not too much of a stretch of the imagination as Michael had not been happy for some time. Although there is a mystery - the shadows and secrets around the real events of Michael's death - this is not a whodunnit in the conventional sense The White Lie is a story of a family's inability to be truthful with itself. To call the book The White Lie is a bit of an understatement, is what I'm saying.
Or all the added nuances, that to me were pretty obvious. The narrative revolves around Peattie, seat of the Salter family; a remote and isolated estate in the Scottish highlands, the old house frozen in time like a fairytale castle. It works because Gillies writes beautifully, with elegant confidence. Or does it have something to do with the earlier drowning of the child Sebastian in the past? Yet, more than that, it is an account of the unreliability of personal history. The happenings of one summer's day on Peattie Loch, nestling at the heart of the cumbling Salter estate, between Michael Salter and his peculiar, dreamy aunt Ursula, are shrouded in a web of half-truths and white lies the Salter family have woven in a vain attempt to hold together their fracturing family. When Ottilie turned to face my way it was as if she looked right at me, though really she was looking back towards the house.
I guess the biggest surprise to me was the muddled story with so many muddled characters. The story This book easily makes it into one of my favourite books of 2012. The prominent theme of the novel is the ever converging space between truth and fantasy. Edit: Ah apparently the written version had a family tree included. This is a book which will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Much too long, with so much time hopping and character telling I was confused more than once which character was doing the telling. No titbits for village gossips.