The Lying Games – 1/5 Stars
Well I thought this book was pretty bad. It’s a 1/5 because what I thought was absolutely horrendous about the mystery became merely annoying by the end. For one, the stakes were so incredibly low for the actual crime, until they tightened toward the end, but mostly because, well, you can have a low stakes kind of book…so many contemporary novels are that way, but the writing has to be good enough to carry it. That’s what’s going in the Rachel Joyce novel below, but if you’re trying to have a thriller, the stakes have to be clear and intense or else it just doesn’t work. But then again, if you’re thinking that maybe the good writing of the book will carry it, you also have to have good writing. And well this novel just doesn’t.
Some other things that don’t work here. The relationship and the character of Owen, the narrator’s baby’s father is a cartoon through and through. His actions are entirely scripted and annoying throughout. The novel is really boring for the first 8/10s and then ridiculous after that.
And the worst offense is that the “Lying Game” is so dumb and not interesting. If this novel were not called the lying game, the inclusion of the lying game would be ok, but the characters are so bad at lying and nothing actually much comes from the lying and the lying is actually a pretty small part of the plot, so it absolutely does not work. And the nature of “lying” is not explored as intelligently or as interesting as the novel seems to think it is. Also, this novel deeply confuses privacy for secrets.
And Every…. – 3/5 Stars
This short novella is a perfectly sweet and nice story. It’s about a grandfather and his relationship to his grandson on the cusp of the grandfather’s losing his memory to Alzheimer’s and how that change is affecting their present life. It’s not about the terrible effects of the disease just yet, but about the closing in of the terribleness to come. The story is mostly about the nice connection they share, the facing down of a kind of death and how that pertains to not having much in the way of faith.
Ultimately this story is nice, but can only be so good. It makes me think a little about older people’s relationship with kids and how staid and fixed we seem to think a child’s brain and personality is. So there’s a moment in the middle of the story where the boy has given some kind of creative but not academic answer to an essay at school and the grandfather asks him the “right” question as a response and the narrator tells us “it’s good to understood” which it is, but to me it felt more so, it’s good to have a loving relationship with someone who has shaped your understanding of the world. The boy is loved and trusts the world and models his understanding after his grandfather’s, but it’s not the same thing as being understood.
I think a better novel to read instead of this one, if you’re interested in Nordic grandparents and their grandchildren is The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, which is perfect.