The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
|The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A novel about WWI inspired by a contemporary household management book and encompassing those at the front and those who stayed behind. It's slow to warm up but, once the fighting starts, it draws some interesting threads together, building to an intense crescendo.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 350||Date: July 2014|
|Publisher: Allison & Busby|
|External links: Author's website|
The long hot July of 1914 is a good one for friends Kezia and Thea. Kezia marries Thea's brother, Tom, bringing them even closer as life-long friends. Kezia then learns how to be a farmer's wife, translating her love into imaginative meals – sometimes overly so. Out of the two friends, Thea is the passionate one, fighting for women's universal suffrage and, as war approaches, pacifism. However, when war starts, Thea goes to the front as well as Tom, leaving Kezia at home to be more than the farmer's wife; necessity dictates she's now the farmer.
British author Jacqueline Winspear is well known on both sides of the Atlantic for her highly acclaimed Maisie Dobbs mystery series set in the newly emancipated world of post-1918. Therefore already firmly rooted in this era, it's not a surprise when Jacqueline commemorates the centennial year by going slightly further back to 1914 and the war itself.
The idea for The Care and Management.. came from an old book that Jacqueline found on a stall in Portobello Road Market. The Woman's Book from 1911 contained all the (then) modern housewife needed to run a household. Jacqueline's imagination started wandering around the subject as she thought about the sort of woman who would have received this for a wedding present. Eventually that young woman then became Kezia. The lies in the title are those that Kez and Tom tell each other to prevent worry.
The novel is a slow burner, the writing style suffering from being densely packed and a little over-written at the beginning with a bit of clunk in the dialogue every now and again. However as soon as Tom's and Thea's adventures kick in, the change is tangible and the story flies.
Kezia is determined to be the perfect farmer's wife including keeping the farmer fuelled, which leads to some interesting concoctions. (Cherry and leek soup??) However, Tom puts up with them, acting appreciatively and recognising the spirit with which they're made. In fact when the guilt of being left behind drives him to sign up for war, it's Kez's culinary imagination that keeps him going.
Once in the trenches in France we see the dynamics between ranks and the English class system making life as potentially fatal for Tom as the Germans across the field are considered. Although, as Jacqueline demonstrates, rank isn't everything especially for the wistfully envious Captain Hawkes. (Having said that, the officers do get some rather interesting perks that the British tax payer may have baulked at if they'd known.)
Jacqueline is sure of her era. The ambience of an uncertain future is present even at home when the safe British streets begin to show signs of xenophobia. In fact at times it becomes very hard for Kez to hold onto her egalitarian principles.
There are some great insights into the mind-set of the Edwardian woman, explaining why Kezia wants to be her own person. For instance the idea that a mirror is a distraction from the mind of one's husband which is surely the most important thing in a married woman's life.
If you're already a fan of Jacqueline's writing, you'll probably gravitate towards this from curiosity. If you haven't read any of the author's work before, this initially may not seem to be one finest hours, but it does change and her feel for factoid gems, light touch and one heck of a 'will they/won't they' climax make it worth a read.
We'd like to thank Allison & Busby for providing us with a copy for review.
Further Reading: If this appeals and you'd like to read more of the world our Great War Tommies left behind as well as the hell for which they enlisted, try Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear at Amazon.com.
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