“On the eve of his college graduation, Harry is called home by his step-mother Alice, to their house on the Maine coast, following the unexpected death of his father.
But who really is Alice, his father’s much younger second wife? In a brilliant split narrative, Peter Swanson teases out the stories and damage that lie in her past. And as her story entwines with Harry’s in the present, things grow increasingly dark and threatening – will Harry be able to see any of it clearly through his own confused feelings?”
I am a huge (HUGE!) Peter Swanson fan. The Kind Worth Killing is one of my all-time favourite books and I ALWAYS recommend it to people (have you read it? You haven’t? You really should!). So, understandably, I always look forward to the next release from Mr Swanson. I didn’t have the blog when I read The Kind Worth Killing so I, unfortunately, don’t have a review to share with you (it would be an awful lot of fangirling!). I do, however, have a review of Swanson’s last book Her Every Fear which despite reading over a year ago now, I can still remember with pinpoint accuracy.
Needless to say, I was incredibly excited to hear the next Peter Swanson novel, All The Beautiful Lies, was due for imminent release. I HAD to read it, and soon! Unfortunately, because I’m an idiot, publication day passed me by but I picked up my copy and made a start as soon as I realised my epic mistake. And I have to say, it’s quite a different read from Swanson’s other books. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why that is but have so far failed. I enjoyed it, but maybe not as much as The Kind Worth Killing or Her Every Fear. It’s a little darker maybe, but that would encourage me if anything. I’m really not the best person to ask on these things but I wonder if it was a departure from the usual commercial fiction I’m used to reading and that’s what felt unfamiliar about the book.
Please don’t get the wrong idea here, I did thoroughly enjoy All The Beautiful Lies. I think I was thrown a little by the very different tone from an author whose writing I have come to know well. The story was a lot more about the intense and somewhat uncomfortable relationships between the characters. And the setting, the blustery Maine coastline, was almost a character in its own right. I’m not saying these are elements not normally included in a Peter Swanson novel. What I AM saying is that it/they felt strangely different in All The Beautiful Lies. But nothing ever stays the same and if you’re a writer churning out the same old thing, time and time again, then you’re not going to last very long in a competitive, inventive industry such as publishing.
Hmmm, yes! I liked it. It got under my skin but in a different way to the author’s other books.
Harry is called back to Maine days before he is due to graduate from college. Alice, his stepmother bears terrible news. Harry’s father has died suddenly; a freak accident whilst he was out on his evening stroll along the clifftop path. Harry is devastated by his father’s death and rushes to Alice’s side. He’s always tried to have a normal relationship with his stepmother but that can difficult when she’s only 13 years older than him and Harry can’t help but find her attractive. Alice needs Harry around her; to cook for, to clean for and to run Harry’s father’s rare book shop. But Harry doesn’t want to be a replacement for Bill. He’s a young man and despite having no clue what he wants from his life, he knows it’s not Kennewick, Maine. Unbeknownst to Harry, Kennewick is full of secrets and it’s frightening how far some people will go to keep it that way.
Alice is probably my favourite character in the book. Personally, I’m not one for your ‘run of the mill’ types and she certainly couldn’t be described that way. I looked forward to the sections where I would discover more about her past and get a glimpse into what made Alice the woman she became. There was also a delicious sense of dread hanging over these chapters which I thought was perfectly written. I felt nervous, but at times couldn’t explain why.
Harry also gets to tell his side of the story which I was a little less interested in. I neither liked nor disliked Harry. Yes, he was key to the plot but Alice was the far superior character in my eyes. Drippy, somewhat naive characters will never get my vote though.
Would I recommend this book? I would. It’s different to what I have come to expect from the author but I liked it. Has it surpassed The Kind Worth Killing in my eyes? Well, no. That’s going to be quite a mammoth feat to achieve (not saying it’s not possible though!). I found this book interesting, a little uncomfortable in places and very intense. It’s not going to be for everyone but it could be for you, so give it a go. Oh, and the ‘fountain of youth’ references throughout the book were fan-flipping-tastic!
Four out of five stars.
I chose to read an ARC of All The Beautiful Lies. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.
All The Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson was published in the UK by Faber & Faber on 5th April 2018 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |
Peter Swanson is the author of four novels: The Girl With a Clock For a Heart, an LA Times Book Award finalist; The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, All the Beautiful Lies. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.
A graduate of Trinity College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Emerson College, he lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and cat.