Secrets and Lies – more please

by |December 12, 2011

We knowingly lie from the age of six.

We tell four lies a day.

We will have told 88,000 by the time we’re sixty.

Who knows how many secrets we keep?

Do liars make the best storytellers? Do secrets make the best stories? Deception lies at the heart of the most compelling stories.

Secrets and Lies is a series of eight modern classics with deception at their very core.

After all, the truth can be found between the lies we tell and the secrets we keep.

Illywhacker by Peter Carey

Illywhacker is a dazzling comic narrative, from the lips of the 139-year-old Herbert Badgery, the ‘illywhacker’ or confidence trickster of the title. Overflowing with magic, jokes and inventions, peopled with aviators, car salesmen, Chinamen and impresarios, Peter Carey’s novel is a contemporary classic.

Illywhacker is a tour de force, both funny and moving, the work of an original at full stretch.’ Financial Times

‘It is impossible to convey in a review the cumulative brilliance and accelerating hilarity of the prose.’ London Review of Books

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Roseanne McNulty, perhaps nearing her one-hundredth birthday – no one is quite sure – faces an uncertain future, as the Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital where she’s spent the best part of her adult life prepares for closure. Over the weeks leading up to this upheaval, she talks often with her psychiatrist Dr Grene. This relationship, guarded but trusting after so many years, intensifies and complicates as Dr Grene mourns the death of his wife.

Told through their respective journals, the story that emerges – of Roseanne’s family in 1930s Sligo – is at once shocking and deeply beautiful. Refracted through the haze of memory and retelling, Roseanne’s story becomes an alternative, secret, history of Ireland. Exquisitely written, The Secret Scripture is the story of a life blighted by terrible mistreatment and ignorance, and yet marked still by love and passion and hope.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro


In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside and into his past . . .

A contemporary classic, The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro’s beautiful and haunting evocation of life between the wars in a Great English House, of lost causes and lost love.

Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi

‘It is the saddest night, for I am leaving and not coming back.’

Jay is leaving his partner and their two sons. As the long night before his departure unfolds he remembers the ups and downs of his relationship with Susan. In an unforgettable, and often pitiless, reflection of their time together he analyses the agonies and the joys of trying to make a life with another person.

Order Intimacy here.

The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster

A grief-stricken man’s obsession with the mysterious life of a silent film star takes him on a strange and intense journey into a shadow-world of lies, illusions and unexpected love . . .

Six months after losing his wife and two young sons in a plane crash, Vermont professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours mired in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he stumbles upon a lost film by Hector Mann, and finds himself enraptured. Mann was a comic genius of the silent cinema, his trademark a fluttering black moustache. One January morning in 1929, at the height of his fame, he walked out of his house and was never heard from again.

Zimmer’s fascination with Mann’s work leads him to write an appreciative book. Then out of nowhere comes a letter from New Mexico, supposedly written by Mann’s wife. Could Hector Mann be still alive? Zimmer is torn between doubt and belief, until a strange woman appears on his doorstep one night and makes the decision for him, changing his life for ever.

Written with breathtaking urgency and precision, The Book of Illusions is a  stunning novel that plunges the reader into a universe in which the comic and the tragic, the real and the imagined, the violent and the tender, dissolve into one another. The Book of Illusions is Paul Auster’s richest, most emotionally charged novel yet.

The Observations by Jane Harris


Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her past, Bessy Buckley takes a job working as a maid in a big country house. But when Arabella, her beautiful mistress, asks her to undertake a series of bizarre tasks, Bessy begins to realise that she hasn’t quite landed on her feet.

In one of the most acclaimed debuts of recent years, Jane Harris has created a heroine who will make you laugh and cry as she narrates The Observations, an unforgettable story about secrets and suspicions and the redemptive power of love and friendship.

Resistance: Owen Sheers

In the months afterwards all of the women, at some point, said they’d known the men were leaving the valley …

1944. After the fall of Russia and the failed D-Day landings, a German counter-attack lands on British soil. Within a month, half of Britain is occupied.

Sarah Lewis, a 26-year-old farmer’s wife, wakes to find her husband Tom has disappeared. She is not alone, as all the women in the isolated Welsh border valley of Olchon wake to find their husbands gone. With this sudden and unexplained absence they regroup as an all-female community and wait, hoping for news.

A German patrol arrives in the valley, the purpose of their mission a mystery. When a severe winter forces the two groups into co-operation, a fragile mutual dependency develops. Sarah begins a faltering acquaintance with the patrol’s commanding officer, Albrecht Wolfram. But with the threat of the war that surrounds them pressing in, how long can the valley’s delicate state of harmony survive?

Imbued with immense imaginative breadth and confidence, Resistance unfolds with the pace and intensity of a thriller. A hymn to the glorious landscape of the border territories and a gripping portrait of a community under siege, Resistance is a first novel of considerable grace and power.

The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer

It is 1953 and Pearlie, a dutiful housewife, finds herself living in the Sunset district of San Francisco, caring not only for her husband’s fragile health but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio. Then, one Saturday morning, a stranger appears on her doorstep and everything changes. All the certainties by which Pearlie has lived are thrown into doubt as she struggles to understand the world around her, most especially her husband, Holland.

The Story of a Marriage portrays three people trapped by the confines of their era, and the desperate measures they are prepared to take to escape it.

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