The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce

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The Lies You Told by Harriet Tyce

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: It's a posh school for girls and Robin Spence is struggling to fit in. Her mother isn't having a better time of it at the school gate - and nothing is quite as it seems. An exceptional read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 314 Date: July 2020
Publisher: Wildfire
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472252784

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Year six student Robin Spence isn't happy about having to start a new school. She's left the school she loved in New York and now she's going to Ashams in North London. It's very upmarket; places are rare as hens' teeth and as the pupils have all been there forever, they have their established groups. Robin's going to be an outsider. And why is this happening? Well, over a matter of a few days her parents' marriage fell apart. Andrew Spence is staying in New York - he works for a securities firm - and her mother, Sadie Roper, has come back to London to pick up her practice as a criminal barrister. That's easier said than done when you've been out of the market place - and the country - for more than ten years.

Sadie's come back to London because she might be able to get work here and because there's a house she can use. Her mother, Lydia, was difficult ('extremely difficult' wouldn't be pushing it too far) and she and Sadie hadn't spoken since Sadie was given the choice of having the baby or retaining a relationship with Lydia - and chose to have Robin. Lydia retaliated - it was in her nature - by leaving her property in a trust. The home and the money would go elsewhere unless Robin attended and completed her secondary education at Ashams School. Even the solicitor who was the trustee was appalled.

Ashams isn't an unknown quantity to Sadie - or her best friend, Zora. They met at the school and both hated it. The signs are not good this time around, either. Sadie's effectively ostracised at the school gate and Robin's coming in for some bullying too. Does she really have to stay at Ashams?

By the bottom of the first page, I knew that I was going to love this book. There are elements of mystery: exactly what has gone wrong with Andrew and Sadie's marriage? Why did Sadie and Robin have to make such a hurried departure from New York? Then there are the characters. I adored Robin: she's ten going on twenty-five and sometimes she seems more in control than her mother. You've got to admire her courage for even being willing to give Ashams a try: the school itself might be fine, but the parents and the girls leave a lot to be desired.

In fairness, it's the mothers who are the problem: there's a leitmotif running through this book of the effect on children from mothers who have been abandoned. Lydia, Sadie's mother, was widowed when Sadie was young. Sadie's working on a case where a young man has a domineering mother - and she and his father can't even be in the same room. The Parent-Teacher Association at Ashams is dominated by divorced women - and, of course, Sadie is in the course of divorcing Andrew. Sadie's the exception though in that she's not trying to force her daughter to achieve anything - but then Robin seems to achieve without even trying very hard.

The ending is particularly chilling. You will feel as though ice is running down your spine.

I'd like to thank the publishers for making a review copy available to the Bookbag.

When I began reading The Lies You Were Told I couldn't help but think of The Hive by Gill Hornby.

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