Orenda Books | 2016 | 371p | Review copy | Buy the book
Andy Boyd has not had a good time of it. His wife has died, leaving him to raise their son alone, believing that he might never have another relationship. Then he meets Anna – warm, friendly, feisty – and he feels as if he’s been given another chance. It doesn’t take long for him to fall in love and soon they are married. The three of them are a family. It all seems too good to be true. And you know what they say about that…
The first sign that all might not be perfect comes on the wedding night. Fists fly, skin colours with bruises, blood flows. Surely this is a one off? Anna must have had a bad dream. It’s explainable. It won’t happen again. But, although long days can pass in which nothing happens, this is the beginning of a nightmare that affects not just Andy, a battered husband, but also his son. But even this isn’t enough. Something is going on at work, someone is stealing. Eyes turn to look at the man with bruises on his face, a man whose behaviour has begun to change.
A Suitable Lie is a harrowing novel, a domestic noir that reverses the expected, its focus falling on the husband rather than the wife, asking us to take a second look when the first look doesn’t go deep enough. In a novel the unreliable narrator is a popular feature. Do we really know what a character is thinking? But in A Suitable Lie this is taken further, beyond the confines of the novel, asking us to reassess the faces that people choose to present to us in daily life.
I actually found the character of Anna to be the most fascinating in A Suitable Lie. It’s plain she’s a person in turmoil, although it’s worth considering whether the reason we’re permitted to feel sympathy for her is because she’s a woman. Would we feel the same for a male abuser? But the message is clear – what happens in childhood can affect the adult and that gives Andy a greater imperative than ever to save his son from her influence.
I didn’t find A Suitable Lie an easy novel – on the contrary. It presents a sad tale of unhappiness, abuse and distrust, not the recipe for a light read. Andy knows a woman who is in a similar situation to him. It’s far easier to offer advice than to give it. The darkness continues to descend over his life. Nevertheless, even though I sometimes found this a difficult novel to return to, and this is a subject that, rightly or wrongly, I prefer to keep at a distance, A Suitable Lie presents an original contribution to the genre.
My review closes the epic blog tour for A Suitable Lie. Thanks to all of you have followed the journey!