Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng

Oh, the very, very good one. Enough to tape you to your chair for a rainy weekend. Presented as a thriller, it is rather a black novel. But black in finesse and psychology, without a drop of blood, without any violence other than that of feelings or their absence. A novel of formidable effectiveness…

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know it yet. Nice introduction. After that, how do you want to put that book down? They’re the rest of the Lee family. James and Marilyn the parents, Nath the older brother and Hannah the youngest. Lydia Lee’s body, 16, is found at the bottom of the lake, not far from the Lee house in a quiet small town in Ohio. Lydia could not swim and immediately asked questions: accident, murder or suicide? What was she doing in the middle of the lake at night?

“How did it start? As always: with mothers and fathers”. From the second chapter, the tone is set. The police investigation goes in the background, what matters is family. What could have happened in this family that led to this fiasco? And that’s where the novelist excels: the exploration of the Lee family’s mysteries allows the suspense to rise deliciously, as the flaws, the unspoken or on the contrary the words that can hurt are revealed. I have rarely read anything so accurate in the expression of a brother’s or sister’s feelings.

Little by little, the portrait of a teenage girl caught between her father’s desire for integration and that of her mother’s emancipation is drawn. For each of her parents she is the favourite, the one on whom all their hopes rest. James would like us to no longer see her as a half-breed but simply an American child like the others, he would like her to succeed in breaking this straitjacket of solitude which locks her mixed family in an America of the end of the 70s still reticent to mixtures. Marilyn relies on Lydia to accomplish what she gave up to start a family: becoming a doctor. Around Lydia, there is an older brother who is about to leave home for Harvard and a younger sister who seems to have been forgotten by the rest of the family, but whose sensitivity is exacerbated by the lack of affection.

The investigation on the Lee family is addictive, the author constantly succeeding in reviving interest or thickening the mystery, starting from nothing, a word, a sentence, a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding. Then all she has to do is pull the thread, which she does in a really intelligent way, also offering a fine vision of conservative America. But above all, each character is camped with great care, his psychology is dissected as closely as possible without the author ever needing to resort to sleeve effects or to put on big hooves. The back cover evokes Laura Kasischke’s universe, perhaps because we remain in a domestic environment with deceptive appearances. But the comparison stops there, the atmosphere of this novel not having the heaviness imposed by Kasischke, on the contrary.

I had a great time with the Lee family, I didn’t go far from the crush. The good news is it’s a first novel. I await the continuation of the lady’s production with interest and curiosity.

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