Warning: this is LONG!
Books about boarding school have sucked me in before, so much so that they led me to attend one (I actually asked); we were living in Hong Kong at the time and I went to school in Sussex, just as in Ruth Ware's 'The Lying Game'.
I couldn't resist making this one of my picks for the month in a book subscription box, and although it waited on my shelf for a few weeks ( I have massive TBR list, thanks to my recent rash of book-buying), as soon as I started Ware's 'Game', I couldn't put it down.
I was immediately transported back to England and my boarding school days. I felt all the nervousness and anxiety emanating off the pages right away, and you can feel it all the way through. The anxiety of trying to make peace with the past is what gave me short nights of sleep (I was staying up late reading), and it's what keeps the characters up late too, their pasts coming back to haunt them. I have always envied friendships that last for decades, like the ones in this story but there are many secrets that are hidden within these tight bonds. These bonds may seem unrealistic to some readers, but when you spend your time literally LIVING with each other through your formative years, you form unbreakable bonds, much like family. Okay, maybe not to the point where you help cover up crimes (right?), but I'm talking about my school mates. I can see where this may not strike a chord with some readers though.
I really enjoyed Ware's writing and never felt confused when she pulled the reader back to look at the girls' past. I was also fully imagining the Sussex coast, the train going back and forth from London, even the windy staircases to the dormitories, the long walks when you just don't have a car...frighteningly close to my own experience (a bit spooky, Ruth!). I kept coming back to the book for more.
I can possibly see how an American reader would maybe struggle with a imagining a long walk pushing a pram across marshy land at night. Being a Brit who walked a long way home from a train station every day, I didn't. The old Mill was also a force to be reckoned with, within the story, and a character of its own, and I could 'see' it falling into the water gradually. And the fever dreams of a body being discovered? Who hasn't had that nightmare, that dread? (Tell me have...right?) I felt it intensely.
Also an aside: since I had to leave my own boarding school in a hurry, not because of bad behavior (I promise) - my parents split - I never got to say goodbye to friends at my school either. I STILL haven't been back for a Founder's Day. Ware writing in a Salten School dinner was a clever touch to bring the past and present together. These sorts of reunions either have people filled with dread (like in this case, and for special reason), and then some 'old girls' can't wait for them.
I loved this story so much, I really did, and while it won't be sitting alongside jovial boarding school stories by Enid Blyton, being transported to the Sussex countryside for this mystery was all-absorbing. Having the past come back to bite you is something we ALL dread and this is a classic tale of that. I feel a little unsure of how I feel about the ending; sad, maybe it's too convenient, but somehow so appropriate, but I liked the imagery - maybe I just didn't want it to end, and for the mystery to be solved.