You know when you've been waiting for one of those books for ages? A Suitable Lie was one of those. Dare I tell you that it was one of those books I knew I'd want even before I read the blurb - yes readers it's true, I do judge a book by its cover far too often! It was just so subtle and stark a cover that I knew what lay inside wasn't going to have to hide behind anything. Does that make any sense other than in my head?! Needless to say though that my instinct was correct; this is tremendous.
It had me walking the tightrope of the marriage along with the husband, Andy - I was trying to find a way of rescuing him even before the marriage to be fair. The slow, steady build-up of abuse is agonising, and told with such a bluntness and almost inevitability, that I was left feeling not only on-edge but also wrought-out with emotion. My head was screaming for him to leave yet I understood the reasoning and excuses he made for staying and dealing with the situation. I got a sense of Andy and his life, spiralling out of his control, and the decimation of this jovial, likeable character was abundantly painful. Always I was left with the question of just how this nightmare was going to be resolved, because certainly it never promised a happy ending.
And as for Anna. Well. I suppose I could try to find some redeeming qualities, but I don't want to in all honesty. Even the idea that she was a good mother and that she really loved the boys is ridiculous to me. I do, I suppose, think that she thought she was, but then I have to counter that with the knowledge that she would never subject someone she loved to even witness the events of their house. She may have been a damaged character, but nothing, and I do mean , could ever absolve her of any guilt in my mind at least. There really are no excuses. Ever. Full stop. She left me breathless in her ability to change almost instantaneously, the triggers were so diverse and unpredictable sometimes that Michael Malone managed to create a palpable tension throughout.
And yet, through all this horror, the funny thing was I wasn't shocked. Granted I maybe caught my breath a little on the wedding night, but after that things were so naturally and realistically portrayed that I was almost immunised against the events. For example, I just accepted that Andy's mother and brother gradually disappeared from the pages of his life, only when confronted with it did I notice their absence. Quite bizarre really considering the huge role they played at the start of the story.
But then I guess the attention is diverted somewhat to the other two victims of Anna: Pat and Ryan, the young children. Their fear is heart-breaking, and the struggle of Pat in particular, to try and make sense of this terrifying and confusing home-life is clear in each sad appearance. There are of course moments of joy and humour intercepted with the violence, but even they were somehow shrouded with a malevolent sense of darkness and foreboding.
This novel once again shows the strength of Orenda Books; their ability to see the glimmer of brilliance in each of their writers. A Suitable Lie is undoubtedly absorbing and will get under your skin from the very first blow. It is stunning.