Thursday, August 6, 2015

we were liars, by e. lockhart

Wow. I thought I knew what to expect from e. lockhart, and I do, in a very, very general way: Excellence, thought-provoking and complex narration, interesting and multi-faceted characters, unpredictable storylines, humor, footnotes.

we were liars offers all of these qualities, except the footnotes, but it offers them in a way that is not remotely typical of the flippant, quirky style for which lockhart is best-known and widely-beloved. No, we were liars instead offers that most engaging and intriguing of literary tropes, the unreliable narrator. Unreliable, but candid; unreliable, but honest. Unreliable not because she hides from us, but because she hides from herself. She tells the truth, but, as Dickinson does, tells it slant.

Privileged and perhaps spoiled, narrator and protagonist Cadence (Cady), acknowledges her privilege, recognizes the vaunted social status of her mother’s family: “We are Sinclairs. No one is needy. No one is wrong. We live, at least in the summertime, on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts,” reads the back matter, and Cadence suggests, “Perhaps that is all you need to know. Except that some of us are liars.”

The lies of the title and back matter pervade the novel substantively and thematically; the ones we see first seem part and parcel of being part of a socially prominent family: we are happy and perfect. Others are more subtle: who lies? About what? Why? I can’t really discuss the specifics of these lies without spoiling, so I won’t. Suffice it to say that we were liars puts lockhart in a subtly new category of excellence.

Read it.

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