About The Telling of Lies:

On a  beautiful hot day off the coast of maine an iceberg looms on the horizon and Calder Maddox, and aged and unprepossessing pharmaceuticals millionnaire is found dead on the beach. Nessa van Horne has photographed the day’s events and as she studies the pictures she draws parallels between her own experience of evil when she was imprisoned in a Japanese concentration camp and the increasingly chilling evidence of Maddox’s murder and a political cover-up

When did I first read this? February 1993

What age was I? 31

How many times since then? This is my first re-read.

Thoughts about the book:

I can’t remember when I first realised I had a thing for all matters Canadian. I think I must actually have been quite small and it may have been because of a visit from some of Dad’s relatives who had emigrated from Scotland to Ontario in the 1920s. Anyhow, it is a real thing for me and although I haven’t yet made it there (I was insanely jealous of the Book God when he went to Vancouver on business and I couldn’t go with him because I had just started a new job, but I will get my revenge, oh yes) I seek out the books and films and music and of course lovely blogging people like Susan. But I digress. In my twenties I worked my way through Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Robertson Davies etc and was looking to widen my horizons a bit, and someone recommended Timothy Findley to me. The Telling of Lies wasn’t the first of his books that I read (that honour probably goes to Famous Last Words or The Butterfly Plague) but it is the one that has stayed with me the longest. It pops into my head every so often and I was completely astonished to find that I had only read it that one time.

I love this book but I’m not really sure that I have got to the bottom of what it’s actually about. On the surface it’s exactly what it says on the cover, murder and cover-ups and so on, but I can’t help feeling that there is something more that I’m just not getting and that’s perhaps why it stays with me. And of course I just love Nessa; I see her as being a sort of Vanessa Redgrave figure (as she was when I was lucky enough to see her in The Year of Magical Thinking, tall and dignified and white-haired), and she is a remarkable character.

Favourite bits:

Everyone has always known that Lily has a heart of gold; but we have also known it’s a chocolate heart and the gold is only a wrapper made of foil

I asked him if, there being so many more, he intended to read them all. And he said “I’ve read them all before, Miss Van Horne. This time, I’m reading them just for pleasure.” I had no reply for this, not having known there could be pleasure in Henry James.

Memory is like that. It buffets you with stories out of sequence. It harries you with the past and it blinds you to the present. It seems to take all its cues at random – failing to deliver what you want to know, while it offers up data that seems to have no bearing on the moment.

As for me – I saw them both as beautiful and exceptional, until he died. It was only then that I encountered Mother as she really was: a reflection stranded in an abandoned mirror.

If I could only learn to be at peace with the wonderfully simple, scientific fact of life: we die. Surely, how we die is all that matters, when it comes to that.

If online comments are to be believed (and I haven’t been exhaustive in my search for the views of others), I’m one of the few out there who seems to rate this novel.  One thing is certain; I’m not going to leave it for another almost twenty years before I pick this up again.

This is the first book in my Big Re-read Project

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