Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
With the words Seven Lies emblazoned across a fan folded red backdrop, one gets the impression that this book will not be a relaxing ‘feel good’ read. This feeling is further increased when learning that it has gained much attention in the literary world and garnered a flurry of 18 international deals including a significant six-figure one with Sphere and a further deal worth an undisclosed seven figure sum. Lucy Malagoni, at Sphere, said: “Seven Lies is that very rare book indeed and one of the most accomplished and spellbinding debuts I’ve ever read – it thrilled me to the core, it chilled me to the bone and I absolutely can’t wait to publish it.”
This “hypnotic thriller” novel is attributed to Elizabeth Kay, a pseudonym for the author who started her career as an assistant at Penguin Random House. She is now a commissioning editor and is simultaneously pursuing her passion for writing. She lives in London with her husband.
Her writing is eloquent and easy to read. As the novel is written in the first person, the reader is taken on an interesting ‘journey’ where s/he has to interpret the actions and motivations of the players through the honest but flawed narrator, and consider their own beliefs and experiences.
A best friend can bring great joy, comfort, solace and fun to your life. We all need friends that share the good times and offer support in the bad. In such a relationship honesty is important.
But the friendship between Jane and Marnie, which began at school when they were eleven years old and gave them the confidence to face life, could not last forever. Jane acknowledges this when she says: ‘It is intoxicating to be so needed, to crave someone so acutely, and that feeling of being so completely entwined. But these early bonds are unsustainable. And someday you will choose to extricate yourself from this friendship … until you can exist independently, until you are again one person where once you were two’ (14). But in this case, it will be the lies that will do the most damage to this friendship.
When Jane meets Jonathan, she is happy to forget everyone and submerge herself in her love for him; however, when she loses him tragically, she once again turns to her best friend. Marnie has moved on with her life but still wants to be there for her friend.
At this stage the reader feels some empathy for Jane, considering her recent loss and her feelings of always being second best to her sister. Her father has left the family and her mother is in a home with the onset of dementia.
However, Jane soon begins to display behaviours which make her less endearing to the reader. She wants to return to the time when she was the centre of her friend’s world and this leads to an unhealthy hatred of Charles who has become Marnie’s partner. It is as if Jane is two different people. The one Jane is successful at her job and is a caring and supportive daughter, sister and friend. The other Jane is self-centred, obsessive and ruthless.
Jane is aware that her actions may not be easily accepted and so the whole book is based on her personal confession and her need to explain why she told each of the seven lies and why their repercussions were acceptable, almost wanting to take the responsibility for the results away from herself.
Initially she seems to be confessing to the reader but towards the end of the book the true recipient is revealed. This is a very disturbing story, probably more powerful because of the first-person narration.
As the quote on the back cover says this book is ‘Shockingly intimate and scarily insidious. Seven Lies explores the explosive truths behind obsession, love, and a seemingly perfect friendship’. It left me with some anxiety that someone could do what she did, feel little remorse and get away with it. The last chapter of the book, in particular, disturbed me.
By Elizabeth Kay