The Book of Lies: A Novelby Mary Horlock
On the English Channel island of Guernsey, a teenage girl’s Mean Girls-like experience pushes her to murder her best friend in a scandal, she will discover, that mirrors her uncle’s previously unknown story from the days of the island’s Nazi occupation during WWII. Told through the voices of fifteen-year-old Cat Rozier and her long-dead Uncle Charlie—known to Cat only by the audio recordings he left behind—The Book of Lies lucidly illuminates the interior lives of a scorned modern girl with attitude and a defiant, faded man. With echoes of Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love and Jennifer McMahon’s Promise Not to Tell, Mary Horlock’s stunning debut novel is an unforgettable exploration of aspiration, anguish, and rebellion.
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The Book of LiesA Novel
By Mary Horlock
Harper PerennialCopyright © 2011 Mary Horlock
All right reserved.
Chapter One12th December 1965
TAPE : 1 ( A SIDE)
"The testimony of Charles André Rozier"
[Transcribed by Emile Philippe Rozier]
Faut le faire pour le register: This is the testimony
of Charles André Rozier, a useless wretch now
often thought a half-wit, the eldest son of Hubert
Ebenezer Wilfred Rozier and Arlette Anne-Marie of
Les Landes. Back when people talked to me, they
only called me Charlie. I was born the year of Our
Lord 1928, when this island of Guernsey was still
that small and perfect paradise. Would that we
could go back to that time, would that I was never
born at all!
But I was born and I did live, and this miserable
life is all I cling to. The rest was taken from me
by one I counted as a friend. He was just a kid,
like me, when he stole everything I valued. I call
him many things. Murderer. Traitor. You can call
him Ray Le Poidevoin. As solid a name as Guernsey
granite, but common for this island. Let's hope he
meets a common end.
Eh me, Emile, I want the wrongs righted but you
won't read my story in the Press, and I don't want
it printed there, neither. They say I am the guilty
one, only out for revenge, but they have been lying
since the War began and don't think it's over
yet. Only today I was on them cliffs by Clarence
Batterie, knee-deep in pink campion and squinting
at the sun, but every view was framed by German
concrete. It is an abomination what has happened
to this island! And as I stood there I imagined
Ray was aside of me, watching the black clouds of
death rise up from the horizon. It was just like
in that summer of 1940, a hot summer that chilled
me to the bone. I looked down into the crystal,
twinkling sea and near surrendered to it. I felt
my knees buckle and the ground slip away, but you
know what stopped me? It was old Ray pulling me
back like he did that once before. Emile, it is a
curse on me! I am ever in his clutches.
Why is it we find this little rock so hard to
leave? If only I were again on the streets of St.
Peter Port, the kid that I once was, holding tight
to our mother's hand. I remember how we pushed our
way through the chaos of weeping and shouting. It
felt like the whole island was on the move and if
ever there was a right time to go, it was then. The
Germans were too close for comfort. Everyone knew
what they was doing to Francewe heard the guns
loud and clearso I was to be packed off to England
with my classmates. But as I stood with my teachers
on the quay I didn't feel scared. Words like war
and death didn't mean too much to me, and England
meant the ends of the earth, a million miles away.
Reckon there must've been something evil in me
even then, since that day was the first time I'd
ever felt special. Before, I was just p'tit Charlie
with too-pale skin and twiggy legs who got poked
and teased and laughed at, but as we marched up the
gangplank I felt something stirring deep inside.
I've spent a long time trying to explain what it
was that made me do it, and I cannot find a simple,
single reason. Perhaps it was the fear and mayhem,
perhaps it was the heat, or perhaps it was a bit of
island madness. As that bright sun beat down I felt
my cheeks burn up, and then I started screaming.
"I shan't go. You can't make me! You put me back!"
Back then I had a pair of lungs, me, and I could
shout myself inside out. I was lashing out with my
elbows and kicking like a donkey. Quel tripos! The
boat was already moving as I lunged for the side
and started going over, and I would've ended up in
the water had it not been for Ray. He was right at
the edge of the pier, holding on to the railings,
leaning over to me. All I saw was a big, brown hand
and then I felt this grip so tight it cut off all
the blood. I was safe, or so I thought, as Ray Le
Poidevoin reeled me in.
"What the Hell do you think you're doing?"
"He's going to stay and kill some Jerries!"
I laughed although I didn't know why, and I
clambered with my new friend up onto the harbour
wall. Someone tried to grab my shirt. Did I hear
my mother shout? I turned to watch the boat move
off and the sea open up. Then I turned back to
St. Peter Port, to the crowds that thronged forward.
Nobody could touch me and I thought I was so
clever: this was history in the making and I would
help to make it. Did I realize then what a dark and
damnable history it would be? No, but I should have
had an inkling when Ray pointed upwards, into the
rich blue, cloudless sky.
I lifted my head and nearly toppled backwards
from the effort.
There were German planes circling high overhead
and they looked like little silver fish. The
world itself was turning upside-down and would
never be righted.
"Now, man amie." Ray whistled. "Now the party's
Excerpted from The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock Copyright © 2011 by Mary Horlock. Excerpted by permission of Harper Perennial. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
MARY HORLOCK was born in Australia but grew up on Guernsey in the Channel Islands, moving to England at the age of eighteen. She studied at Cambridge and went on to work as a curator at Tate Britain and Tate Liverpool. She is a former curator of the Turner Prize. Mary lives in London with her partner and their children and is currently writing a book on art and camouflage in the Second World War. Although she has written widely on contemporary art, this is her first novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Teen on the isle of Guernsey intersperses her story of a best friend who was a bully along with the story of a deceased uncle who lived through the occupation. Excellent thought-provoking and deep book.
Oh my goodness what a snore-fest. I can't even finish it. Awful!