Sunday, February 8, 2015

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars 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.  Perhaps that is all you need to know.  Except that some of us are liars.

I knew this book was about a wealthy East Coast family.  I suspected there was would be some sort of major wrongdoing, possibly a crime, perhaps along the lines of The Secret History.  Mostly I expected a story about wealthy people complaining about their first world, top one percent problems.  I was spot on but at the same time really surprised.  I should have been less surprised.  After all, the title says it all.

The story is narrated by Cadence (Cady) Sinclair Eastman.  She is a Sinclair.  The Sinclairs are athletic, tall, and blond.  They have strong chins and an even stronger resolve to be normal (as Cady's mother likes to remind her) and present a good front to the world no matter what happens behind closed doors.  Cadence has a secret, or rather her family has a secret that they're keeping from her.  When she was 15 she had an accident and continues to have memory problems two years later as a result.  No one will talk to her about the accident.  She is desperate to find out the truth.

We Were Liars borrows much from King Lear.  Harris Sinclair, the patriarch of the Sinclair family has three daughters: Penny, Bess and Carrie.  Despite all the opportunities and privileges afforded to those with ancestors who sailed over on the Mayflower and who have enough money to own an island, the three sisters have ended up divorced and without careers or a reliable source of income of their own.  The women turn to their father.  Like King Lear, Harris demands that each of his daughters prove their love to him, again and again, dangling the possibility of an inheritance in front of them to keep them in line. 

We Were Liars started off slow.  At 225 pages I should have finished this in one day, but it took a while to grab me and I kept putting it down.  As Cady starts remembering more about her accident the story started to come together.  What kept me going until it came together were the fairy tale like retellings of King Lear.  I really liked how the author used the retellings to flesh out the dynamics of the Sinclair family.  It was clever and King Lear is a play I remember liking a lot when I read it in school.  This was a good choice for a quick, weekend read.

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