The Book of Lies, written by Mary Horlock, tells the story of two Guernsey youngsters who lived decades apart.
One is Catherine Rozier, who is 15 years old and top of the class, until she commits a terrible murder. Scribbling frantically in her journal in 1985, she recounts the events surrounding her friend Nicolette’s death after falling from the Clarence Batterie, only to discover history is apparently repeating itself. Fifty years earlier, her uncle, Charlie Rozier, a teenager in the Occupation, is struggling with his own guilty secret and tells his story through a taped testimony.
Mary moved to Guernsey with her parents when she was four. At the age of 10, she was given, by her mother, the Book of Ebenezer Le Page, and was inspired to one day write a work of fiction based on the island.
The former Cordier Hill and Blanchelande pupil lived on the cliffs above Fermain Bay, in the Village de Putron.
‘I know Guernsey so well, and whenever I sat down to write, I imagined myself back in my old bedroom, looking out over the cliffs above Fermain Bay,’ said Mary.
At 18, Mary left the island to study at the University of Cambridge, where she read History and History of Art. She then accepted a position at Christie’s Modern and Impressionist Paintings department in London before spending nearly a decade at the Tate Gallery, where she worked as a curator.
‘Although I had lived in London for years, I have always felt that Guernsey is my home, and not just because I still have family here. When I am in London, I miss the sea, the cliffs and the quiet. But, rather like Catherine, during my teenage years I was desperate to get away from the island, and this was all I ever talked about with my friends. It was only much later that I became nostalgic for the past, perhaps after the births of my own children.’
After a trip to Guernsey and the rediscovery of her battered childhood diaries, Mary’s idea for the character of Catherine Rozier and The Book of Lies emerged. Catherine is a model pupil but her life slowly starts to unravel after the death of her father. Looking for answers, she discovers the lost story of her uncle Charlie.
The descriptions of Charlie and life under the Germans is rich in detail and Mary spent more than three years researching the Occupation, spending days on end at the Priaulx Library, to ensure there was much fact within the fiction. She also recruited her mother’s friends to help her master the basics of Guernsey patois.
Mary will be in Guernsey on Saturday 26 March to launch The Book of Lies. The book is being launched in the UK by Canongate this month. Harper Collins is publishing the book in the US and Canada and Text Publishing in Australia. It is also being translated and published in Israel, Holland, France and Italy.
Cannongate has also commissioned the making of a film by Spike Productions, which provides insight into The Book of Lies by Mary and was filmed at the scene of Catherine’s crime at Clarence Batterie. The film can be seen now on YouTube and will be available on Amazon, where the book can be purchased.
The Book of Lies has already received excellent acclamation, the Daily Mail’s Hephzibah Anderson described Mary as ‘a promising voice that’s all her own’ and The Herald’s Lesley McDowell named it as her paperback of the week and described it as ‘an intriguing and well-handled debut.’ Novelist Hanif Kureshi CBE, who was named by The Times as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 described The Book of Lies as an ‘unforgettable and brilliant debut’ which he said established ‘Mary Horlock as an original, compelling and powerful new voice in British fiction.’
Reviews of the novel have also featured in Vogue, Glamour, Elle and the Irish Times.
Mary will also be featuring at this year’s Guernsey Literary Festival, which will take place on Thursday 12 till Sunday 15 May, organised by the Guernsey Arts Commission.