Saturday, 10 January 2015

REVIEW || Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Book Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves
Author: Robin Talley
Publisher: Mira Ink, October 3rd, 2014
Source: Bought!
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
It's 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it's Sarah Dunbar's first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High. No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda Hairston, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise each other. But as a school project forces them to spend time together, the less their differences seem to matter. And Sarah and Linda start to feel something they've never felt before. Something they're both determined ignore. Because it's one thing to be frightened by the world around you - and another thing altogether when you're terrified of what you feel inside.
Lies We Tell Ourselves has been bouncing around a lot ever since, and before its publication, it was really by chance that I picked it up at the WHSmith in London Heathrow Airport and then it was a couple of months before I finally picked it up last week and decided now would be a good time to have a read of it. I will say that at first it doesn’t stand out, writing wise, but after a chapter two you (or at least me) are already in love with without even knowing what happened.

The time period that Lies We Tell Ourselves is set in is one that I’ve always had a great interest in; I’ve always been a big advocate of civil rights, so I was really interested to see how Talley was going to approach it, and I can tell you that she did it fantastically. Not only was Sarah’s character and voice incredibly well developed but her chapters were heartbreakingly accurate. I also found the repeated short sentences and general prose of the novel quite interesting and if anything they enhanced the writing style and set the scene really well. 

As this book is told in dual perspective it was important to me that both characters (Sarah and Linda) be distinguishable and I think Talley succeeded in that, but I do think that in Linda’s chapter’s Talley’s style perhaps wasn’t as striking as in Sarah’s chapter’s and that transition was a little disappointing but understandable. Yet I will say that the way Talley has written the dual perspectives works incredibly well for the story and plot development.

The LGBT element of the book wasn’t as strong as I had expected it to be, and that was surprising because after everything I’d heard and the actual writing on the cover I’d expected something that was really going to explore the relationship and generally I’d just expected to be a really big part of the book when in reality it actually played quite a small part. Furthermore, I don’t really like the idea of Sarah getting into a relationship with someone, Linda, who was so openly racist – I mean, I can kind of get the fact that this how she was brought up, but in her chapters we can clearly see that she’s questioning it, she knows that its morally wrong yet there’s also a part of her that thinks its genuinely correct. Overall, I just disliked Linda as a character, and disliked the fact that in the end the oppressed and the oppressor got together.

Having said that though, I found the ending satisfactory, I didn’t actually hate it! I think the book could have ended a dozen other ways, but after all my theorizing I have come to the conclusion that even if I personally don’t really like it, it does seem like the perfect ending. After reading this book I definitely do consider it moreover a historical contemporary, and one that is truly brilliant. As soon as I finished the book I recall thinking “wow that was amazing” and by all rights Lies We Tell Ourselves is amazing. Talley has combined two controversial topics (homosexuality and Civil Rights) and brought something that I think is entirely unique to the YA table. I think this is a book that will leave people thinking about itself and the topics it broaches for quite a while.

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds


  1. HI FIIIIII! IT'S YOUR LIL' UNICORN SPEAKING. I read this too back in the Summer. I had really high expectations and it didn't really live up to them... I felt that the premise behind it was good, and like you, the time period really interests me. However, there was something was off.. I just didn't really feel anything for the book, do you know what I mean?? Love this review, Fi!

    Rita xx

  2. Glad you enjoyed this one. I would also have expected the relationship to play a big part (just by what the blurb says about it). Can you believe I've not read an LGBT book yet?!! It's actually so shocking. I think I've read a couple that had LGBT elements, but not actually one that explored the topic in detail. I don't think I'll be picking this one up but I'm on the look out for another.

    Great review! :D


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