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Meet the Sinclair’s – tall, athletic, wealthy and beautiful, they are nothing short of perfection. They spend every summer on Beechwood, the family’s private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Despite divorces and other dilemmas, the Sinclair daughters never failed to get their children to the island. Cadence Sinclair Eastman, the protagonist and narrator of the story, her cousins Mirren and Johnny, along with Gat who is Johnny’s mother’s boyfriend’s nephew form a close bond, and soon enough Cadence finds herself falling in love with Gat. The island to them is a refuge from the predicaments of the reality that lies behind the façade of the aristocracy.
The novels chronicles the summers spent on the island , but focuses on two summers in particular – Cadence’s 17th summer, when she returns to Beechwood after spending one summer away; and her 15th summer, when an incident that left her with amnesia and migraines took place. As Cadence tries to recall the events that took place, her narration of it seems to be unreliable and unclear. Her family is unwilling to tell her how she lost her memory of that night and ended up unconscious on the shore, about the event she says “I suppose that I was raped or attacked or some godforsaken something. That’s the kind of thing that makes people have amnesia, isn’t it?” In this context, Lockhart does well in passing on the feelings of confusion that is brought on by Cadence’s amnesia onto the reader.
The book explores issues such as mental health and the stigma associated with it as well as the greed, superficiality and faults of the American oligarchy. A recurring theme is power and love, and the extreme lengths that people go to in order to attain it.
The author adopts a very poetic form of writing, one that is filled with metaphors, allusions, imagery and repetition, however this is not a book that will sweep you of your feet with romanticism. This is a book that will baffle you and mislead you to never expect the twist at the end of the tale. Lockhart’s clever use of foreshadowing and flashbacks conspires in deceiving the reader about the progression of the plot, so much so that by the end of it you are left with a feeling of betrayal and the inability to fathom why you did not pick on the subtle hints that were splattered across it’s pages.
If you are willing to push through the frustration that inevitably comes with a narration that is so fraught with uncertainty, then you are sure to be rewarded with an “inception” like after effect, which has you left to comprehend what was reality and what was distorted. To truly enjoy the brilliance of this novel, it is vital that you read this book without any prior spoilers. So refrain from internet searches and keep your phone away, instead dive headfirst into Cadence Sinclair Eastman’s world of lies.


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