Seven Lies by James Lasdun


Seven Lies is a novel about Stefan Vogel, a former East German dissident who moves to New York in 1986 to start a new life. The book explores the consequences of everyday betrayal that was intrinsic to East German life and how it affected a generation of East Germans surprised by their own liberation. The story is told from Stefan’s perspective and focuses on his upbringing in East Berlin, including his flawed parents, adolescent shame, and sexual initiation by an older woman.

The novel also includes an international thriller genre element when Stefan is approached by an unfamiliar woman at a cocktail party in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who throws the contents of her wineglass at him. The wine-splashing incident is explained through a classical allusion that Stefan doesn’t recognize.

The main themes of the book include political sub-themes, Lasdun-navel-gazing, depressing romance, and an interesting family angle. The book takes the idea of the unreliable narrator and spins it on its head, making it an immersive study of female friendship and loneliness with a scarily reliable narrator who proves that truth is often scarier and stranger than any fiction.

What I Liked

Not a whole lot. I found the setting and premise interesting. Life in late communist stage East Germany is curious to me. But the book was pretty forgettable.

What I Did Not Like

Most of the book. It read like one of those books where the author is trying to impress either himself or another author friend rather than tell a story.

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