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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Book of Lies, by Mary Horlock ($14.99)

This book tells two stories, both set on the Isle of Guernsey. Guernsey, if you don't already know from either Elizabeth George's story, A Place of Hiding, or the surprising hit, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, was the only place in Great Britain that the Germans captured.

One is the story of Emile Rozier, who was a young child during WWII, and his quest to defend the reputation of his brother, Charles, who spent three years in a concentration camp, accused of spying on the Germans. Strange that a spy against the Germans would have to defend his reputation, eh? That's part of the fascinating aspect of this part of the book. Because so many of the people involved in the WWII story are dead, it is through transcripts and letters that we hear the story of how Charles found himself in the predicament which led to his imprisonment.

The other story is of Emile's teenage daughter, Catherine. From the start of her part of the book, she confesses to killing another teenager. Cat's tale begins a couple of years after her father's death, and she and her mother are still dealing with their loss. To make matters more miserable, although Cat is smart, she is also plain-looking, not popular, and awkward. When the rich and popular Nicolette befriends her, Cat finds herself caught by a force beyond her naive understanding. Of course, it is Nic whom Cat has killed. It takes the rest of the book to learn (sort of) why Cat killed Nic.

I suppose the danger with books that are two stories in one -- and so many of today's books are -- is that the reader might like one of the stories much more than the other. And I'm sorry to say that I enjoyed the WWII story a lot more. It's hard-hearted but I couldn't really maintain an interest in Cat's plight. She was a tough character to like and understand, as well.

Guernsey's war history is fascinating and sad. No doubt, as expressed in this book, the families are still feeling the repercussions of what happened then. Mary Horlock deftly tells that part of the tale in a sensitive manner. That story unfolds to an unexpected and creative conclusion, and it's this that makes the book worth reading.

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