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Liars and Saints: A Novel Hardcover – Jun 17 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; American First edition (June 17 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743244354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743244350
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,278,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Opening with a wedding and ending with a funeral, Maile Meloy stuffs everything imaginable in between, and manages to maintain a cool, elegant prose style throughout. Liars and Saints, Meloy's debut novel, following her story collection Half in Love, chronicles the life of the Santerre family, who sin with the gusto of true Catholics. Written in a series of short story-like vignettes, the family's saga is told in turn by every member, from Yvette the matriarch down to T.J., her great-grandson. We start out with a relatively run of the mill family secret, when in the 1950s Yvette sends daughter Margot off to a French convent for the duration of her teenage pregnancy. As the decades pass, the transgressions become wilder and more melodramatic, as if the Santerres are trying to keep up with the times by way of their naughty acts. What makes the novel work is that all the while, Meloy maintains a quiet, slightly wry tone: illicit lovemaking and bloody mary mixing are recounted with the same equanimity. She also gets just right the tone of each era. When Yvette's other daughter Clarissa marries a jolly lawyer in the early 60s, he sends a telegram to Yvette: "HITCHED. THANKS FOR BEAUTIFUL DAUGHER. PROGENY PROMISED TO POPE." Likewise, in the 1970s the characters talk just groovy enough, and the 80s have a wised-up ring to them. Most multi-generational sagas are dull forays into sentimentalism, but in the aptly titled Liars and Saints, Meloy has written a corker. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

The consolations of ardent faith, as well as the harsh demands of religious dogma, supply the leitmotifs of this dazzling novel of a Catholic family's life over five decades. Meloy, whose collection of short fiction, Half in Love, earned rave reviews last year, writes with wisdom and compassion about the secret guilt that shadows three generations of the Santerre family. Yvette Grenier and Teddy Santerre marry in California in 1945, just before Teddy ships out to the Pacific. Their wartime separation sparks Teddy's fears of Yvette's infidelity, and when naive Yvette is moved to confess an experience of sexual temptation to her priest, his strict penalty for her "sin of omission" creates enduring tension in the marriage. When one of their daughters gives birth at age 16, Yvette contrives to pass off the baby boy as her own son, convinced that God has chosen her to bear this burden. The strict injunctions of Catholic doctrine and the well-meaning deceit that follows trigger an intricate chain of events that finds history repeating itself in the next generation, bringing heartbreaking sacrifice and spiritual reconciliation. Meloy's unerring mastery of narrative is remarkable. The disciplined economy and resonant clarity of her prose allow her to present a complex story in swift, lean chapters. The alternating points of view of eight main characters shine with authenticity and illuminate the moral complexities felt by each generation. The rich emotional chiarascuro and fine psychological insight of this haunting novel mark Meloy as a writer of extraordinary talent.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I truly WANTED to like this novel more. The idea was compelling: several generations of Catholic guilt and a snapshot of the changing times. But I felt as if I were quickly turning the pages of a photo album without lingering too long on any one photo. Here's Abby: she's born, she's pregnant, she dies. But who IS Abby? What is her essence? Just when I began to become acquainted with a character, he or she was thrust into the background as another one appeared. The result: I never became emotionally invested in any of them. There's promise here, but not enough substance.
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By A Customer on May 26 2004
Format: Hardcover
What struck me first about this riveting novel was its form. Few will notice or care about this, simply looking for a "good story." But Maile Meloy has really done something remarkable with regards to the "layout" of the book. Starting with a wedding, and ending with a funeral, the tone is set for . . . well . . . life--everything in between. The sheer beauty of this idea reminded me of a book by J.T. McCrae--The Bark of the Dogwood--where form is also a key to the progression of events and characters. More attention should be paid to this sort of thing, for it really separates the men from the boys when it comes to building a great work of fiction such as "Liars and Saints."
Writing about family sagas and family secrets is nothing new, but the masterful telling and again "form" of this book really made it stand out for me from the other mediocre reads that pepper the lists. With each new decade, Meloy manages to paint a different portrait of the family, building to a wonderful crescendo and satisfying conclusion. And if you think that's par for the course, you haven't read much, for many authors today simply ingore the rules of good writing. Meloy is, in a sense, old-fashioned in that the treatment of the plot, characters, and settings, is all interwoven. And while this may sound academic, it's not. Few authors, whether trained or not, achieve this level of reader satisfaction.
With its rich textures of myriad lives over vast periods of time and the excellent writing, this book will surely become one of the bestsellers.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this novel when it first came out and was favorably reviewed in the New Yorker as a "short." (The author's stories have appeared in the New Yorker). Recently, less than a year later, I picked it up again. I had only vague memories of the characters and story, as if I'd dreamed it. This makes me wonder about the strength of the character portrayal and the narrative (not, of course, about my memory). Although each character is interesting, none are very endearing, except perhaps for the young man, Jamie, who is, at least, funny and articulate. Part of the problem is that we aren't allowed much "time" with each character, as the narrative speeds through several generations, leaping from point of view to point of view. The writing, although flawless and strong, fails to create a sense of place or to paint a picture of any of the participants. It's more like a a fictional breeze through a family's generational history.
On the other hand, I enjoyed it both times I read it. I think, therefore, that this novel should be read more as a narrative poem, and really a rather lovely one.
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Format: Hardcover
_Liars and Saints_ by Maile Meloy is the multi-generational saga of a Catholic family. This short description may call to mind a very long book, entrenched in the lives of each character, filled with description of each era and bogged down by characterization, but unlike most stories of this type, Meloy's novel is a quick read with relatively short chapters, easy to delve into and difficult to put down.
Each chapter is told by the point of view of a different character, with frequent years-long skips ahead in time. The story begins with the marriage of Yvette and Teddy Santerre during WWII, his overseas fighting, the births of their daughters (Margot and Clarissa), and Teddy's jealousy. The secrets begin almost immediately as Yvette confesses a small one to her husband (at the recommendation of her priest) only to have it be a mistake to have told him; she never faces truth easily again. The birth of the family's third child, Jamie, is cloaked in subterfuge as only Yvette and her oldest daughter know that this boy is really Yvette and Teddy's GRANDCHILD, not their son, as everyone will believe until Jamie is well into adulthood.
The family's transgressions, secrets, and tribulations continue from there, becoming more outlandish as the reader is fully immersed in the novel, truly cares about the characters, and is therefore able to suspend some disbelief. Meloy's writing style is to treat the most serious matters very lightly, which some may consider a flaw, but I actually found that it made the events easier to digest somehow.
The progeny of the Santerres, Yvette and Teddy's great-grandchild, is another birth of mysterious parentage and also of tragedy, but little T.J.
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Format: Hardcover
In the novel Liars and Saints, Meloy is saying some interesting things about the influence that religion has on people's lives. Catholicism frustrates and prevents Santerre family from fully accepting, and accommodating each other's decisions as they go through life. Margot, Clarissa and Jamie, as they grow older and make their own choices about how they want to live their lives, seem to absent themselves from the traditional beliefs of their parents, Teddy and Yvette. Times change, and society changes, as the traditional values of the postwar nineteen fifties, are replaced by the freethinking sixties, the rebelliousness of the seventies, and the realism and hard choices of the nineties. In Meloy's story Catholicism is always there, subconsciously influencing each generation of the Santerre family one way or another, whether they like it or not.
Meloy certainly set herself a challenging task of telling a sweeping multi-generational story in just over two hundred and fifty pages. And her stark, almost severe style lends itself quite well to telling this story concisely and quickly. In fact, at times her story seems almost two hurried - I wanted her to slow down and not be in such a rush to tell the tale. There's also a tendency for Meloy's style to be almost under-developed. Multi-generational stories can be difficult to do - the structure has to be exact; Michael Cunningham did a good job at it with Flesh and Blood, and with Liars and Saints, Meloy employs similar techniques. Each chapter is told from a different point of view with each family member recording their feelings and motivations about the similar events in each of their lives. This effect works quite well in moving the story along and creating believable characters that have to face hard choices in life.
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