All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil by Melina Marchetta

on February 1, 2017

tell-the-truthTell The Truth, Shame The Devil
Melina Marchetta
Penguin Books AUS
2016, 405p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Chief Inspector Bish Ortley of the London Met, divorced and still grieving the death of his son, has been drowning his anger in Scotch. Something has to give, and he’s no sooner suspended from the force than a busload of British students is subject to a deadly bomb attack across the Channel. Bish’s daughter is one of those on board.

Also on the bus is Violette LeBrac. Raised in Australia, Violette has a troubled background. Thirteen years ago her grandfather bombed a London supermarket, killing dozens of people. Her mother, Noor, is serving a life sentence in connection with the incident. But before Violette’s part in the French tragedy can be established, she disappears.

Bish, who was involved in Noor LeBrac’s arrest, is now compelled to question everything that happened back then. And the more he delves into the lives of the family he helped put away, the more he realises that truth wears many colours.

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago but I’ve put off reviewing it until now. This is the sort of book that makes me wish I was better at this…..that I had a magic way to translate the mess of feelings in my head into this post. That I could better articulate the intricate maze of relationships and issues and events that are taking place in this book.

Reading this cemented one thing for me, if nothing else. Melina Marchetta could write anything and I’d read it. I read her contemporary YA novels first…. Looking For Alibrandi years ago when I was still in high school and then Saving Francesca, Jellicoe, The Piper’s Son. Someone asked me if I’d read Finnikin and I hadn’t because I didn’t think it would be my thing. I’m not a huge fantasy reader but I was urged to and in reading them I realised that it doesn’t matter what genre Marchetta is writing in. Those heartbreaking relationships are still the same. They transcend everything else.

And this book is no different. It’s Marchetta’s first ‘adult’ fiction novel, focusing on a character named Bish. He works with the London Met but is currently ‘taking a break’ after an incident at work. Bish has suffered a terrible loss…..he’s also now divorced and watching his former wife move on in multiple ways. When Bish’s teenage daughter is caught up in a bombing in France, he wastes no time getting over there. He wants to see that Bee is safe but it turns into something else. Bish’s job qualifications mean that he’s able to step in and talk to parents, keep lines of communication open. He is able to take charge in a way that others can’t, including those running the tour his daughter was on. The more Bish learns, the more he becomes almost compelled to find out exactly what happened: who was it that set off the bomb? Does it have anything to do with the daughter and granddaughter of one of the most notorious terrorist bombers in London? Or is there something else to it?

Oh Bish. You poor, poor man. What a wonderfully complex, heartbroken character he was. He’s really got not a lot going for him at the opening of the book. He’s divorced from his wife, who has moved on, his teenage daughter barely speaks to him and he’s still grieving horribly. He drinks way too much and he has nothing to focus him, to occupy his time. As strange as it sounds, the bombing and the fallout gives him something to do. It allows him to showcase his various skills (sometimes reluctantly, as he’s pressured into doing things by a former schoolmate who makes vague noises about his high-up in government boss) and it gives him a mission. He not only wants to find out about the bombing of the bus in France but it also begins making him think  about the bombing that occurred in the London supermarket thirteen years ago.

And there’s the Marchetta factor where all these things – people, events, places etc from the past, come to a point in the present and you begin to realise just how intricate this plot is. How the most innocuous seeming things suddenly come back later on with renewed importance – and the same with characters. The pieces fall together so slowly but in a good way – little bits and pieces are uncovered, things that make you query the most likely scenario and start constructing others in your head.

But as amazing as the plot concerning the bombing is, it’s the relationships where this book truly shines. It’s a book of love in all its varying types…..and of pain. There’s plenty of pain here as well, heart and soul wrenching grief. But there’s also hope…this is a book that never loses hope. You always hope that Bish will find whatever it is he needs to in order to begin to heal, to move forward. I loved Bish, so much so that I wanted to protect him at times, from some of the other characters within the story.

I’m not sure that when Melina Marchetta began writing this story in 2013, she could have foreseen how relevant it would be at the time of its release on so many levels and even more so for me reading it some 6 months after its release. In a world of Donald Trump as president, with five year olds being detained at airports because they flew in from Iran, of conclusions being jumped to every time there is an incident (Bourke St, the Quebecois mosque) this book is a searing look at minorities and the treatment of them in society. There are disturbing incidences in here of teens being beaten half to death for vaguely resembling someone who isn’t even an official suspect in a bombing. And it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine it happening in real life. Perhaps it already is.

As I mentioned I’m not sure that I was able to do this sort of book justice in my review. That I could articulate just how intricate the strands of the plot are and the complex relationships. All I can do is recommend that people read it for themselves, no matter if you’re a fan of Marchetta’s previous works or not. Even if you’ve never read her before, try this one.


Book #14 of 2017


Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil is book #4 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2017

One response to “Review: Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil by Melina Marchetta

  1. Marg Bates says:

    Going to have to read this. Soon. Some time.

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