“O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” (Walter Scott). This is very much the quote that came to mind as I read Sarah Marie Graye’s novel about relationships, friendship and social connections; The Victoria Lie (When is a Lie a Lifeline?: The Butterfly Effect Book 2). Graye introduces us to Zoe, who has decided to end her life, but doesn’t want the messiness and angst of her best friend and flat-mate, Allison, having to find her dead body. She comes up with a plan that will effectively end her life, but will take upward of a week to finally effect its poison on her body. This will give her the chance, as she lies dying in her hospital bed, to square things away with both Allison and her boyfriend, James. Graye takes us on a journey of social connection and the tenuous, yet strangely, incredibly strong bonds that link us as human beings. She explores the wide-ranging effects, well beyond the two protagonists, of lies and half-truths and the long-term and long-lasting effects these can have on even the sturdiest of relationships, such as family. As Zoe lies “dying” the people in her life are already manoeuvring around her, building new relationships and she realises they are actually replacing her, in their lives, right in front of her eyes.
The Victoria Lie (When is a Lie a Lifeline?: The Butterfly Effect Book 2) is in effect, what may have been called, in Victorian times, a novel of manners or even a comedy of manners. There are certainly plenty of parts of the story where Sarah Marie Graye displays an accurate and piercing acerbic wit that had me chuckling along at the protagonist. What I particularly liked about this story was the author’s ability to convey both the fragility and the strength of relationships and friendships, in a mere paragraph. This juxtaposition of opposite ideas was fascinating to me and is best portrayed in the relationship between Allison and her childhood friend, Ruby. The interplay between Zoe and her hospital visitors, some of whom she barely knew was cleverly done and a reminder to me, as a reader, just how difficult it is to be honest and straightforward when visiting a friend who you know is dying. The long, drawn-out pauses and meaningless chatter will resonate with many readers. The writer’s style is free, easy and conversational, which made the book a joy to read and a quick read, at that. If you like expository novels that examine real life and social conventions, I am sure you will enjoy this story. Its honesty was a breath of fresh air for this reader.