Thursday, 29 May 2014

Book review - The Lie by Helen Dunmore

I don't often do a book review on this blog but this time I decided this was the right place for it. I'm a big fan of Helen Dunmore and I've just spent the last week reading her latest book, The Lie which is a Richard & Judy summer read. At 294 pages (paperback) it is a short read but delves into the mind of Daniel who has survived World War I when his childhood friend, Frederick hasn't. Daniel returns to England full of guilt and is haunted by what he saw and what he felt he should have done. As a young child Daniel gets to know Frederick and his little sister Felicia when his mother works in the house. Although they are from a different class their bond is strong. Daniel loves reading and works his way through Frederick's father library. While Daniel's education ceases at eleven so he can go out to work to help his mother, Frederick goes off to boarding school and has the education Daniel so desires. Yet while Frederick struggles at school Daniel is able to memorise poetry and large chunks of books.  When the two subsequently meet in France Frederick is an officer and Daniel a Private but the bond is still strong. To me the relationship between the two friends almost goes beyond friendship and certainly from Daniel's point of view I felt he wished it so, though Dunmore does not make this point in her conversation with Richard & Judy at the back of the book nor in her further writing about the book which follows.

On his return to England Daniel meets Felicia again, widowed at twenty with a small child. The two rekindle their friendship but disaster is about to strike. I do not want to reveal more or I will spoil it for you should you want to read the book. I enjoyed this book as it slowly unravels and there are flashbacks to Daniel's time at war with all it's gore, smells and terror. Daniel is disturbed more because he still see's his friend who visits at night caked in mud. He has distanced himself from everyone except Felicia.

I love the way Helen Dunmore reveals to her readers at the end of her books about how the book came about and how she saw the character. Insights into how writers work and get their ideas are always a fascination for me and it's great when they talk about it. I think it always gives a richer understanding of a book. Also Dunmore's descriptions are so beautiful and vivid - in this book it was dotted everywhere with flowers, fruit and vegetables (Daniel worked as a gardener before the war and comes back to work on the land for a sick friend of his mother's). A really insightful book looking at how war affected those who fought and the impact it had on those left as well as the families left behind.

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