Sunday, 6 May 2018

Review: 'Everything Is Lies' by Helen Callaghan

Aaah give me all the family drama thrillers! I heard a lot about Everything is Lies and Helen Callaghan before I even started reading this novel, and usually that makes me quite nervous. There is something about major anticipation that alters a reading experience. The expectations are set high, sometimes so high it is almost impossible for an author to meet them. I'm glad to say Callaghan, however, didn't let me down. Thanks to Penguin UK, Micheal Joseph and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Pub. Date: 22/02/2018
Publisher: Penguin UK, Michael Joseph
No-one is who you think they are 
Sophia's parents lead quiet, unremarkable lives. At least that is what she's always believed. 
Everyone has secrets 
Until the day she arrives at her childhood home to find a house ringing with silence. Her mother is hanging from a tree. Her father is lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death. 
Especially those closest to you 
The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn't a killer. As her father is too ill to talk it is up to Sophia to clear her mother's name. 
And to do this she needs to delve deep into her family's past - a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there . . . 
What if your parents had been lying to you since the day you were born?
Aren't we all afraid to find out that everything we believe to be true actually isn't? It's always there, that fear, when someone tells us something that we can't quite believe, when a certain look steals into people's eyes, when a movement in the corner of our eye makes us twitch. It is this slight discomfort that some thriller novels pick up on excellently. Everything is Lies is one of those novels that explores our fears that we never really knew the truth, that the people we love aren't what they seem. Family is both a source of comfort and fear since it is what shapes us and yet we also end up moving away from it as we grow older. And this leads us to one of the key questions of Everything is Lies: who are you and how much control do you have over yourself, over your own life? I think this is what most fears come down to, the fear someone will be able to manipulate us to do whatever they want and we'll do so gratefully, not even realizing what is happening or worse, allowing it happily. Without giving too much away, Everything is Lies really digs into this question in an interesting way that has made me curious to read much more.

At the heart of Everything is Lies is Sophia's discovery that everything she thought she knew is perhaps not what it seemed. At the very beginning of the novel she finds herself in a sticky situation with a senior colleague, which sets her on a path of nervous anticipation of disaster. When she discovers her parents, one dead and the other dying, she refuses to believe the police's story that it was her mother. Sophia sets out to prove her mother's innocence and so discovers secrets buried under years of guilt and denial. The pace of Everything is Lies is at times slow but this allows Callaghan to truly set a scene and let her characters get used to the spaces they find themselves in. Throughout the novel Callaghan manages to address a number of themes but the one that stood out to me most was the theme of power (im)balance, especially how easy it is for men in power to take advantage of or threaten young women. It is a very timely theme and it was fascinating to see Callaghan address this in different time periods, both Sophia's present and her mother's past.

Helen Callaghan takes her readers on a journey through Sophia's mind as she begins to unravel her own life and that of her parents. Everything is Lies is split between Sophia's narrative and that of her mother, Nina, as the former starts digging and the latter offers up spare glimpses and explanations. Callaghan strikes a masterful balance between the two, allowing her readers to identify and sympathise with both characters while keeping them on Sophia's side by only giving them the same bare insights as her. There are a number of high intensity scenes in the novel in which Callaghan very successfully keeps the reader on edge, even after the scene has ended. Just like Sophia, the reader finds themselves constantly questioning what people are saying, wondering if they are who they are or if, indeed, everything is lies. In the end I saw some of the plot twists coming, with just enough hints having been dropped that I had terrible realizations before Callaghan revealed them to be truth. But this is part of the fun, figuring things out as or before they happen, and Everything is Lies provides the reader with plenty of twists and turns to make it a real page turner.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

I really enjoyed Everything is Lies. It is quite a quick read, a novel that will make you turn the pages without you even being aware of it. Each chapter brings something new to the table and the interplay between mother and daughter, past and present, is very well done. I'd definitely recommend this to those interested in Psychological Thrillers and Family Dramas.

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