Set during and just after the First World War, The Lie is an enthralling, heart-wrenching novel of love, memory and devastating loss by one of the UK’s most acclaimed storytellers.
Cornwall, 1920, early spring.
A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family.
Behind him lie the mud, barbed-wire entanglements and terror of the trenches. Behind him is also the most intense relationship of his life.
Daniel has survived, but the horror and passion of the past seem more real than the quiet fields around him.
He is about to step into the unknown. But will he ever be able to escape the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie?
What did WE think?:
CHRISSI: What do you see as “the lie” of the title?
BETH: I’m going to try and answer this question quite vaguely as I don’t want to give away any spoilers! Basically, I think there are quite a lot of lies in this novel made by more than one character. Our main character Daniel has a huge secret about the war that he played a part in but I feel he is also lying to himself about not only the kind of person he is, but how he is coping with life after the Great War i.e. re-adjusting to being a civilian, and that he hasn’t fully dealt with the loss that he experienced while at war. Felicia is also living a lie, pretending that she can cope by herself, alone in a big house with a small child to look after. There are other lies too which seem small at first but have consequences for our characters, basically the title of this book sums it up quite well!
BETH: The story is set over a few time periods in Daniel’s life – pre-war, during the war, and post-war (the present time). Which one did you enjoy the most and why?
CHRISSI: I found it interesting to read from different time periods in Daniel’s life. I think my favourite time to read about was post-war because it was intriguing to see how Daniel’s life experiences affected his present day life.
CHRISSI: The book uses different forms of media i.e. poems. Do you think this worked?
BETH: I was actually pleasantly surprised to see poetry in this novel, as I wasn’t expecting it. Some of the poetry that Daniel can quote by heart is really beautiful and did actually make me want to look up the original work. Before each chapter we also had a paragraph of text with advice for the soldiers of World War I which I found quite moving to read when you consider the amount of men that had to die for the world to be at peace.
BETH: What did you think of the relationship between Daniel and Frederick?
CHRISSI: I really liked that Daniel and Fredrick were such good friends despite their different social standing, they don’t realise the difference between them. I thought Daniel and Fredrick’s relationship became laced with guilt and incredibly affected by the war. I’m trying not to say too much as I don’t know what would spoil it, but Daniel is definitely affected by what happened to Frederick. I wondered if Daniel believed it should never had happened because Fredrick was ‘better’ than him.
CHRISSI: Discuss Daniel’s state of mind throughout the novel.
BETH: Poor Daniel! I really felt for him in this novel after everything he had seen in the war and losing people that he loved the most. Not only this, but he is carrying around a heavy guilt that does not lift but is indeed exacerbated by being in contact with Felicia, the sister of his dearest friend. He is experiencing vivid hallucinations and even smells associated with that terrible period in his life, and often has to re-live certain experiences that have long since passed. When we consider that they did not really recognise or treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the early part of the 20th century, there must have been a number of young men suffering in silence. Daniel’s state of mind, which seems to be getting progressively worse as the story continues, was almost inevitable after the trauma of war.
BETH: Was the ending what you expected?
CHRISSI: I think I began to anticipate that this story wasn’t going to be a happily ever after story. It’s not often that war stories end in a joyful way. It was hard to watch everything unravel, but I do think that the ending was the right ending for this story. The lies that have been told were never meant with malice, good intentions were at the heart of the lie.
CHRISSI: Did this book live up to your expectations?
BETH: Strangely enough, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. I enjoyed The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore, which is also a war-time novel, but I think I actually enjoyed this one more. Certainly after answering these questions, and remembering/re-analysing the story, I enjoyed it even more than I thought I did when I finished it, if that makes any sense? It’s definitely one I’m still thinking about.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: Like you, I’ve read The Greatcoat and enjoyed it, so the answer is yes! I really like Helen Dunmore’s writing, so I’d definitely look into reading more of her work. She is a beautiful writer.