Andrea Gillies

The White Lie

The White Lie book coverOn a hot summer's afternoon, Ursula Salter runs sobbing from the loch on her parents' Scottish estate and confesses, distraught, that she has killed Michael, her 19 year old nephew.  But what really happened? No body can be found, and Ursula's story is full of contradictions.  In order to protect her, the Salters come up with another version of events, a decision that some of them will come to regret. 

Years later, at a family gathering, a witness speaks up and the web of deceit begins to unravel.  What is the white lie?  Only one person knows the whole truth. Narrating from beyond the grave, Michael takes us to key moments in the past, looping back and back until - finally - we see what he sees.


Absolutely searing... we have a major new talent in our midst. --Daily Express

A subtle and sustained exercise in slowly revealing a dense story. Gillies writes magnificently on everything she touches, be it family secrets, Highland light, or the nature of memory. -- Sunday Times


Gillies writes with elegance... bringing the closed world of the big house to life with cinematic clarity. The book has a pleasantly teasing quality, stealthily circling its central mysteries, challenging the reader to keep up while it flits between eras. A gripping exploration of the stories families tell about themselves, myths sometimes more potent than the truth. --Financial Times

The White Lie is a story of decline, of a crumbling hierarchy taking desperate measures to save face (and the bloodline and the silver) before the hordes sweep them away. Yet, more than that, it is an account of the unreliability of personal history. Is a family story true because it is repeated? Does it matter in the end if the truth is revealed, if the lie has been lived? This novel develops ideas of the fragility and fluidity of identity. We all self-mythologise. The strength of this immersive story is that it does not require neat revelations. The White Lie is, even with its detours, a page-turner. It is also, finally, very moving. -- Francine Stock, Guardian

A white lie is, by convention, a harmless thing... Gillies explores in this novel how such lies may be very far from innocent in intention or in effect... the truth beginning to work its way to the surface, like a swollen and decomposing corpse... She excels in her portrait of a landscape that consumes the merely human; eats it for lunch, as it were, and has slowly, over many generations, created a family in its own image. -- Helen Dunmore, The Times

There is an echo of Virginia Woolf, especially To the Lighthouse, that lifts Gillies' work above the average family drama. The fact that she also keeps a tight hold of the gossipy strands of her story is a great credit to her powers, as well as her ability to keep her readers guessing the truth to the end. This is an unusual, unsettling, often lovely story that plumbs the depths of what family means. It is a fine debut novel. --Lesley McDowell, The Scotsman

Gillies' beautifully crafted debut combines page-turning aplomb with psychological insight... She is a tantalising storyteller, dropping in clues, vertiginous surprises and unexpected revelations. --Marie Claire

Andrea Gillies writes in The White Lie as if she herself lived in Peattie House, as if she draped the dust sheets in the rooms of the dead.  -- The Scots Magazine, Book of the Month

An intricate, well-observed novel of secrets and guilt. --Woman and Home

An excellent debut novel... Gillies handles her large cast and clashing versions of events with a precision that makes reading this imaginative novel a fascinating process of discovery. -- Metro

The true history of the Salter family lies at the heart of a web of secrecy and deception that is gradually unravelled through the course of the novel…as the family realise that they are trapped in a cyclical pattern of their own creation... Gillies reminds us that lying is a form of storytelling, and that lies are a consequence of the human mind’s ability to ‘conjure up realities if you’ll allow it to’. –- Times Literary Supplement

Gillies is an exciting, versatile writer... Fizzing with energy, suspense and tense dialogue, this is an elegantly brilliant novel.  -- Red

Andrea Gillies

WATERSTONES SCOTLAND Book Of The Month for July 2012

A really terrific read... Elegant, well written, genuinely gripping -- Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat

A wonderfully compelling portrait of a family haunted by secrets and lies... pitch perfect on the chilling, devastating consequences of guilt -- Sally Brampton, Sunday Times columnist

from twitter:

From @thevintageyear :  "The White Lie"by Andrea Gillies.  Subtle plotting and utterly involving. Am gripped.

From @melliebuse : "The White Lie" by Andrea Gillies. Wonderful, atmospheric family saga. Clever and absorbing. Read it!

From @newonKindle : Recommended read: "The White Lie" by Andrea Gillies.  Stunning debut novel from the winner of the Orwell Prize 2010

From @sarahjphughes :  Best novel I've read this year is Andrea Gillies' "The White Lie".  I can't stop thinking about it. It's wonderful.

From @WigtownBookFestival  :  If you're looking for entertaining Scottish novels we can vouch for Andrea Gillies...

From @thesupercargo :  Sat and read The White Lie and drank tea till dawn, around 6.15

From @Ardepe  :  Spent a most agreeable afternoon on the sofa immersed in The White Lie by Andrea Gillies.  Can't recommend it highly enough.

From @janerusbridge : I am having serious trouble getting anything done today, thanks to The White Lie

From the blogosphere:

"By the time I was half way through the book I was returning to it at every spare moment to find out what happened – and it really wasn't what I was expecting".  --Bookbag

There is always a risk, with a potential lie that large, that the truth will seep out and this is exactly what happens at Peattie. What makes the book so fascinating and compelling is the way in which this happens. The prose is elegant and beautiful, and Gillies has a skill for creating character and a sense of place. I couldn't put The White Lie down. -- For Books' Sake