25 February 2008

The Liar's Diary

I feel a little like I'm in sixth grade, with a book report due. In some fit of madness, I signed up to do a book review for Mother Talk. What do I do? It seemed so easy when I was raising my hand – I read books, I write about stuff, hey, write about a book! Yeah, right.

To start with, the book is a murder mystery, so writing about it is tricky; I don't want to give away the plot. And, I find that I read viscerally rather than critically. Is it any good? I don’t really know. Did I like it? Yes and no.

The assignment was The Liar’s Diary by Patry Francis. Francis writes a blog called Simply Wait, and this is her first novel.

In short, it’s a thriller of suburban sturm und drang – families and individuals appear perfect but are hiding substantial secrets, all against a background of school hallways, pretty houses and trips to the grocery store. Nothing is as it seems.

The book is written in the first person, a necessary device but one that often feels stilted. Too many sentences begin with “I”, “Since I”, “Realizing I”, “I don’t know”. The narrator is Jeanne, a suburban doctor's wife and mother, with a job as the school secretary in the local high school, where her son goes to school. A new music teacher arrives at the school, and turns everyone’s life topsy-turvy. Ali, the music teacher, keeps a diary that eventually goes missing. Is Ali a liar? Is she prevaricating in her diary? Or is the “liar’s diary” of the title a reference to the book itself? After all, a diary is a first person narrative, and Jeanne may not be the most reliable storyteller - she's psychologically stilted and unable to recognize the darkness in her marriage.

The book is absolutely a page turner; I read about 2/3 one night and finished it the next. And it’s cunning – the plot twists and turns, with little foreshadowing of the next revelation. The denouement was a surprise. In retrospect, maybe it shouldn’t have been, but I let myself be carried along in a stage of suspended disbelief, because sometimes escapist fiction is just the ticket. At the same time, though, that final revelation is completely preposterous and quite implausible. Does that matter? It depends on what’s important to you in reading fiction. Harry Potter is completely preposterous too.

Am I happy to have read it? Yes.

Is it going on the list of favorite books of all time? No.

Are you intrigued a little bit? In need of some diversion for a trip to the beach? If you are, leave a comment and I’ll do a random drawing on March 1st – the winner gets my copy of The Liar’s Diary.

Edited to add: Susie J won the book!

14 comments:

FreshHell said...

I am intrigued! I need a free book! Pick me!

Gina said...

I'm always intrigued by a book.

Sober Briquette said...

You write a hell of a tepid review. I absolutely want to read it.

Julie Pippert said...

I feel as ambivalent about reading it as you came across in your review about liking it.

I know everything can't be a favorite, but I have a half a dozen books on deck (sitting on the nightstand) and more in the dugout...

kathy a. said...

page-turner is good enough for me! i have an addiction to mysteries written by women; it is a thrill to find a story that makes me want to find out what happens next, even if it is not great literature.

slouching mom said...

hmm. i'll throw my hat in the ring, albeit a bit hesitantly.

flutter said...

What a cool idea for a giveaway! I'm game

the mama bird diaries said...

Sounds entertaining (I do love a murder mystery)... although I hate a book with a disappointing ending. Ok throw my name in... but if i win, i might just have to send you this hamburger phone I'm dying to ditch. :)

alejna said...

Well, I'm intrigued. If in part to discover what the implausible ending is.

Speaking of mysteries, have you read anything by Sarah Caudwell? She is one of my favorite authors, and wrote 4 very clever mysteries. And then died. I found her by way of the Edward Gorey illustrations on the covers. She's not for everyone, but I thought you might be someone who'd enjoy her.

susiej said...

I saw that book on your blog last week, and the cover intrigued me. Now, I have the review to match. It sounds delicious... and I love books that I can just observe, and say "wow." So, I get your review. I read the kinsey alphabet mysteries sometimes -- just for that effect.

Pinky said...

Hey! I thought I had dibs on all of your pass-along books. Oh, well. Put me in the drawing.

Mama Zen said...

Don't put me in the drawing; I have a copy. Great review!

niobe said...

You have to admit it's got a great title.

Anastasia said...

I'm definately intrgued! :) Thanks for the giveaway!

anastasia_falling@yahoo.com