I recently finished reading a book called We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014). Anyone who reads will understand the inescapable desire to talk and talk and talk about a book the moment you finish reading it. So, I’m going to do a book review for you but I will give a warning before I reveal any spoilers.
What is the book about?
We Were Liars is a young adult mystery/drama/romance which centres on the Sinclair family. It is narrated by Cadence Sinclair Eastman (“Cady”) who is the first grandchild of the Sinclair clan. The family is very wealthy and prestigious. They are relentlessly aware that they have a reputation to uphold. Everyone must be normal. Everyone must be perfect. They spend their summers together on Beechwood Island. Cady’s mother and grandfather, her cousins and Gat. The island is their own private getaway where they feel like their true selves. The story centres on what happens across several summers on the island.
I can’t say anymore because this is one of those books you just have to read for yourself and going into it will less knowledge of the plot is better. That’s why the blurb of this book doesn’t give much away. You are taken up by the mystery from the moment you even look at the outside cover.
This book is wonderfully different and utterly captivating.
“I rewrote this novel maybe 15 times” – E. Lockhart
The style isn’t like anything I have ever read before. Lockhart’s poetic flare is unique and it quickens the pace of the book which adds to the excitement and unpredictability. I think her style is perfect for the nature of the story. It is almost written like a stream of consciousness in parts which works well as the story is deeply rooted in the thoughts of the main protagonist.
In an interview with The Guardian E. Lockhart said “I rewrote this novel maybe 15 times, and reorganized it over and over.” You may appreciate this statement more after you’ve read it, but I think it is definitely fair to mention the precision of Lockhart’s style and how it enhances the narrative.
Lockhart enchants us wonderful description. I love the secluded privacy of Beechwood Island. It is quite claustrophobic and really makes you think about nothing else but the family and what happens to them for the majority of the book.
I love the map at the front of the book as it is always fun to have some visual guidance to help you place the world of the story within your imagination.
Beechwood Island is described in such a beautiful way. I picture calm, evening beeches with stars overhead, little rickety wooden walkways made from boards with small gaps between them and sunny summer gardens with food and iced drinks. The whole atmosphere of summer in this book is hard not to love.
I can’t say too much about the characters without sidestepping into spoiler territory. But, I will say that I love the characters. They all add a little something extra to the book. There are no pointless characters and they each had individual differences. I think this is important because much of the story focuses on human nature and how different people approach different situations in life.
SPOILER WARNING – THERE WILL BE PLOT SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON (and I really want you to read and enjoy this book without knowing any spoilers, so please go and read it if you’re a fan of young adult fiction or mystery etc).
I want to continue discussing the characters in a little more depth. But to do that I must first explain my thoughts on the book biggest plot twist.
Although, when I was reading, the thought did cross my mind a few pages before it happens, I never fully believed it until I read it and then I think it hit me all over again but in a different way. I think the twist is genius, sad and ever so eerie. The biggest thrill for me with the book is not in the twist itself, but in thinking back through the story after I read the twist.
Johnny, Mirren and Gat are dead. You’ve just read a book which focuses on the interactions between four characters and three of them are actually dead. Now, that is a goose bumps, shivers down the spine kind of revelation.
When I looked back through the clues in the story it blew my mind. It is so well done. The clues are interweaved so perfectly that you note them as actions but you never register them as suspicious.
From the emails and gifts that are never received to the fact that no one else on the island besides Cady interacts with the other liars all summer. The fact that they never go to the family dinners. The image of Mirren with the jug of oil from the motorboats. The image of Cady’s grandfather with his face lit up from the flames.
The fact that Will has nightmares and screams throughout the night, assumingly because of what happened, is one of the most chilling realisations when looking back. There are so many others. It is brilliantly crafted and I just can’t believe I didn’t piece them together along the way.
More on characters
It becomes clear how much the book is tied to Cady’s mind. We very much see the world from her point of view. She is brain damaged, she is seeing people who are no longer alive and we believe it too. It is very unnerving but also spine chillingly good.
I love The Liars as a groups of friends which makes the ending even sadder. I think we really get to know them and we understand their views on the family’s behaviour. We even, to a certain extent, understand their plan to burn down the Clairmont House. They obviously have good intentions but it goes very wrong.
This book is so emotional and tragic and I really could talk about it all day long which I’m sure you could too. I am looking forward to reading more from the mystery genre as I had never experienced the “hidden clues thrill” before this book and I think it’s amazing!
I am going to give this book 4/5 stars.