Straight away, from the title of this excellent thriller, The Truth About Lies, you know this will be an intriguing voyage into the truth and memory. And it doesn’t disappoint.
Jess has a condition called hyperthymesia, which means she can remember every detail of what happened on a any given day, even the unimportant minutiae, like exactly what she was wearing.
Jess also has a photographic memory. She can bring a document out of her memory to read later after only a glance.
Far too much information is all stored in her overloaded and over-busy brain and the descriptions of what it is like to be Jess are riveting.
But in that overworked brain, Jess is also keeping secrets.
She is in therapy after the death of her room-mate. But the first secret she is keeping is that she is only going through the motions of pretending to be upset. The truth is she sees everyone else’s efforts to honour and remember their friend as being false and pointless – Jess can see a different point of view – that one of the kind things about most people’s memories is that it they are allowed to forget.
Jess wants to live a normal life, but how can she when she has such difficulty doing ordinary things, like making friends. If you cannot forget you are overly aware of every slight, every regret, every small unkindness.
This story is full of interesting and thought-provoking detail about how our minds work.
Jess attends a college in a remote part of Devon, taking classes in memory. She is studying under Ramesh Desai, learning how we store and lay down memories, why memory is important, how you can improve memory. I was just as eager to get back to his classes as his students were!
Does Jess have a supreme talent? Or is it an illness?
Jess a fascinating character to travel with. The descriptions of what is it like to be her, with a memory so cluttered she has to carry everything around with her all the time build on our sympathies and help us understand why she is such a brittle, unemotional character at the start.
The Truth About Lies deftly treads between the big theme of examining a rare condition, woven into a page-turning plot and ends up as a very smart psychological thriller.
Jess mostly tries to keep her condition a secret, but opens up when a new boy joins the college, just at the moment that all the secrets she has been keeping to try to live a normal life start to close in on her.
She was part of a programme that thought she was extraordinary. It helped her control her memories, to learn to be able to lock them away and not be overwhelmed by them. But her remarkable mind was also too irresistible not to use her as a means to advance scientific knowledge of exactly how the brain works.
And the more she learns, even Jess starts to doubt if anyone’s memory is truly infallible.
A terrific, intelligent debut and I can’t wait to read more by Tracy Darnton.Nicki Thornton