Monday, 11 June 2012

Another Excellent Read

I've got to hand it to Marion; when it comes to choosing good books, she really is an expert. She trawls through all the book reviews in the weekend supplements and adds the ones she fancies to the Amazon wish list and then, when we've both read everything on the Kindles, she downloads four or five from the list. I had just finished reading Middlesex a week of so back and saw The White Lie by Andrea Gillies turn up on the Kindle home screen. I had no idea what it was about so dived into it completely unaware of what to expect.

What I found was an intriguing tale of a Scottish family dynasty told by Michael who stood to inherit the once magnificent but now crumbling Salter family pile Peattie set in acres of beautiful Scottish countryside. But Michael is telling his story from a watery grave and the wonderful loch on the estate plays an important role in the book.

What is the white lie to which the title of the book refers? Although it is revealed towards the end of the novel there is, in fact, a multiplicity of lies throughout as the book charts the tragedies and family intrigues that have faced the Salters over many years. Although principally a tale of relationships there is an element of the "whodunnit" to the story and Andrea Gillies leads the reader off on a number of false trails and presents us with plenty of red herrings to keep our interest throughout what is a relatively long book.

I enjoyed it immensely - it evokes a brilliantly atmospheric feeling of the deep dark Scottish loch, the rambling old house that is not quite a stately home but has dozens of rooms and plenty of secrets and, most importantly, the age old dilemmas of family loyalties. My only problem with this excellent book was the size of that family. I had the same problem when I read A S Byatt's The Children's Book last year. Gillies writes in the accompanying notes at the end of the book that she started out with a family tree as she set out to write her novel. I would have welcomed this family tree appearing somewhere for easy reference as, at times, if felt as if we had a cast of hundreds. I'm happy to say that I eventually got to know who everybody was. Marion hasn't read it yet but I know that she'll love it.

And now for something completely different. I was delighted to win a download of this new YA fantasy when visiting author Caroline Smailes' blog. I read a short story The Quaint Christmas by author Darren Craske a few months ago and enjoyed it so, as soon as I've finished my current read, I'll give this a try.