Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

28/08/2016 Reviews 8

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart‘Me, Johnny, Mirren and Gat. Gat, Mirren, Johnny, and me.

The family calls us four the Liars, and we probably deserve it.’

We Were Liars tells the story of the Sinclair family, who despite being rich and beautiful are beset with dark secrets. The narrator, Cadence, is the oldest grandchild of Harris Sinclair, and every summer when the Sinclairs gather on their private island she bands together with two of her older cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and family friend Gat. Together the four are known as ‘the Liars’, and for the duration of the summer they are a tight-knit group, watching as their parents squabble over money and try to impress their grandfather. However, things take a dark turn when Cadence suffers a terrible accident, and struggles to discover the truth about what happened to her.

I had been meaning to read this book for so long, and I had heard so much about it that I expected great things. However, whilst I don’t think it quite lived up to the hype it was a very enjoyable read, and it definitely kept me guessing until the end.

The first thing I really liked about this book was the writing style. The short, crisp sentences kept things moving along at a quick pace and in such a short book there was certainly not a word wasted. The way it flicks about from the present to various different times in the past, lingering mostly on the previous summer, also kept things interesting as you gradually start to build up a picture of the darker aspects of the beautiful Sinclair family, and what may have happened to Cadence.

And that brings me to the main problem I had with the book: I didn’t really feel much connection to any of the characters. I don’t feel like Cadence was unlikable, I just didn’t really feel that much about her, which considering the fact she is narrating the story isn’t great. And in terms of the other Liars – Johnny, Mirren and Gat – I didn’t have many feelings about them either. Mirren didn’t seem to have a very distinct personality, whilst Johnny’s cockiness was often annoying. Gat, as the ‘romantic hero’ of the book seemed quite bland, and I found myself not really caring whether he got together with Cadence or not. Whilst he makes a lot of good points about how the other Liars don’t even recognise how privileged they are etc., it just seems to come across as a bit preachy.

The rest of the Sinclair family, aside from the younger children, are outright repulsive as people, but I feel like that was meant to be the point. The novel is a loose adaptation of King Lear, and Harris Sinclair’s three daughters spend most of their time squabbling and manipulating their own children into trying to get their grandfather to give certain things to them in his will. In some ways they almost seem to be waiting for him to die so they can get their inheritance, and it is so frustrating to see three women who believe that because they are divorced and have no husbands to support them, they need their father to. How about just joining the 21st Century and supporting yourself? Getting a job maybe, or starting a career?

However, my dislike or total ambivalence to most of the characters didn’t massively affect my enjoyment of the story itself, and I think that the colossal twist at the end that I’d heard so much about was incredibly well crafted. Even though I’d expected a twist and had been trying to guess it as I was going along, I didn’t see that ending coming at all, although in retrospect it seems obvious.

As a quick, summer read this book was perfect, and I’d definitely be interested to read something else by E. Lockhart because I really liked the distinctive writing style. I do feel like, despite the quite serious issues it attempts to tackle, it did just skate over the surface a bit and miss some opportunities to say something truly deep, and the characters could have been more likeable and well developed, but it was still an enjoyable book.

Rating: 3.5/5

8 Responses to “Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart”

    • Laura

      The main positive point of this book for me was the interesting writing style, but otherwise it was a bit of a let down.

  1. Michael Tyne

    Don’t you find that a lot of modern literary fiction focusses so much on the dark side of human nature that the characters become almost automatically unsympathetic? And as a consequence a lot of the novels thus produced suffer from the same weakness. Maybe someone should invade the “New York Review Of Books” and bang a few heads together… 🙂

    Enjoyed the review, Laura, thank you for posting.

    • Laura

      I think you’re right! There is so much focus in novels these days on the dark side of human nature, and it does mean that I end up not liking a lot of the main characters. I think whilst occasionally books can get away with having unsympathetic main characters if it’s for a very good reason, most of the time it does make it harder for me to enjoy the book.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the review! 🙂

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