In the early pages of this debut novel by Nicholas Searle, we met Roy, who, we are told, could “pass for seventy, sixty at a pinch,” but he is a decade older than that. He is meeting a woman on a blind date, each initially giving the other a “nom de guerre,” but they quickly admit the truth and re-introduce themselves to the other. He tells her “I can promise you that was the last time I will lie to you, Betty, everything I say to you from now on will be the truth. Total honesty. I can promise you, Betty. Total honesty.” As the title suggests, however, this in itself is as far from honesty as one can get. Instead, he sees in her little more than a mark, a very vulnerable woman. But once the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, she still things it can work, “for the sake of the satisfaction and security she craves.”
The book is replete with flashbacks, each one rather lengthy, harking back decades earlier, first to mid-1998, then early 1963, mid-1946, and finally back to December of 1938 and a time of war.
The writing is beautiful. One early scene in particular I would like to cite as an example:
“Boys of secondary school age are mere blustering rhinos, carried on a wave of hormonal surges of which they are the helpless victims and to which they are utterly oblivious. Their female peers have gained an awareness. And with awareness comes uncertainty, expressed in various ways. The plain and studious invest in their faith that diligence and intelligence may help them navigate the horrors, away from loneliness and failure. The fresh-faced, pretty girls of the class - - pretty vacuous too, most of them - - sense inchoately that their attractiveness may be ephemeral and dependent on the vagaries of their coming physical development.”
Roy turns out to be surprisingly likeable, this reader found, to her surprise. But be assured, please, that this novel is nothing at all what one expects, whatever that may be.
From the publisher: “Roy’s entire life is a masterfully woven web of lies, secrets, and betrayals that will blindside you.” If anything, that understates the case. This is a book that stayed with me long after the cover had been closed and the last page read. And it is highly recommended....Continua