Book Review: We Were Liars by E Lockhart

I have been recommending this book to so many people so I thought it would be a good one for my first review. Also we did it for book club last week so I’ve been waiting to hear what everyone else thought as well!

We Were Liars is a story about the Sinclairs, a wealthy American family, who spend every summer on their Granddad’s private island.  The Sinclairs are ‘tall, merry, and rich’ and nothing is allowed to affect that facade. The Sinclair’s world is controlled by Harris Sinclair, whose four daughters compete for his affections and argue constantly about their entitlement to the family wealth.

The story is told by Cadence (or Cady), who we know from the beginning is ill in body and mind.  She relates the story from her fifteenth summer on the island to the seventeeth, all the time trying to remember what happened during ‘Summer Seventeen’ which made her so ill.  We go on Cady’s journey with her, trying to unravel the truth and eventually finding it.

The four ‘Liars’ from the title are the three eldest grandchildren, Cady, Mirren and Johnny and also Gat, who is not part of the family, but spends every summer with them.  Gat is different from the Sinclairs in the way he looks, thinks and behaves, so when Cady falls in love with him, it threatens to upset the structure of the world they all live in.

I think that the characters are all interesting and vivid. Most of the adults are unpleasant, often tragic and I rarely sympathised with any of them. The teenagers are selfish and products of their surroundings and upbringing but also likeable.  They are opinionated, passionate and dramatic, making statements which they believe in but do not fully understand.

I loved the writing.  It sounds a bit cliché, but whilst I was reading this book, I often paused on a page to re-read a paragraph or sentence with a smile on my face.  The way Lockhart expresses certain emotions or situations is just so brilliant and lovely to read!  Here’s what I mean:

‘It tasted like salt and failure. The bright red shame of being unloved soaked the grass in front of our house, the bricks of the path, the steps to the porch. My heart spasmed among the peonies like a trout.’

I also really liked the way that she sets the scene. Rather than lengthy pages of description Lockhart often conjures up a picture of where the characters are in just a couple of sentences. 

The ending is shocking and profound.  A couple of girls in my book club had only just finished it and were still reeling.  It brought some to tears. There was some debate amongst us whether when the truth comes out it is plausible or not. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions but I am a believer. Enjoy.