106 of 107 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2013
I was really looking forward to reading this book as I had read very good reviews. I wasn't disappointed. It is told from the perspective of the 2 main characters - Jane and Ivy. It is set in the 1960's in North Carolina. Jane is newly married and goes against her husband's wishes by wanting a career so becomes a social worker. Ivy is a young girl living with her family and working on a tobacco farm in abject poverty. Their two worlds meet and the result is a very powerful story. It makes for uncomfortable reading at times - mainly due to the fact of attitudes in 1960's America, but you are drawn into the story from the very first page. This is an excellent book and the fact that the Eugenics Programme actually happened makes for a fascinating read. Diane Chamberlain is an author who grips you from the word go and I would recommend this book wholeheartedly.
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
I absolutely LOVE Diane Chamberlain's books, Every so often you find an author that makes you stop and think "WOW" and Diane Chamberlain is that for me, I first discovered her books many years ago and since then i have followed her and bought all of her novels. When I first heard about Necessary Lies, I was eagerly awaiting it among her many other loyal fans and I could not wait to get started!
In North Carolina in 1960, Jane Forrester is fresh out of university and soon to be married to a doctor. Whilst her husband to be is keen for her to be a housewife, having dinners on the table, joining the club of the other wives and concentrating on having children with him. But Jane has other ideas - she wants to be independent and pursue a career, and further to that, she wants to be in a career where she helps others. Much to the distaste of her husband, Jane starts working as a social worker, but the job is far from what Jane expected. She encounters a world of poverty unlike she's seen before, and whilst working with the Hart family, Jane uncovers a secret. But what can she do about it? What should her choices be? And at what risk?
Words cannot describe how much I LOVED this book. To say it is powerful is a big understatement. Diane's writing moved me in a way that I haven't been able to stop thinking about the story and the characters. Whilst I was cooking or even sleeping my mind was with Jane and the Hart family, and even after finishing, in my mind I'm already missing them and I feel like they have grown to become really good friends of mine.
The characters are PERFECTLY written. I liked Jane from the very beginning, she is your everyday hard-working girl who has the desire to have a career and help others. I warmed to her instantly and I became very emotionally involved with her, throughout the story I really got behind her and I was cheering her on as she made some huge decisions and went through with them. I was desperate to read on because I really wanted things to go well for her. I also loved Ivy, I won't say too much about her but I really liked her too and I felt I understood her, she was one of my favourite characters and I'm still thinking of her after finishing.
As is expected with a Diane Chamberlain, there are controversial topics explored and many moral dilemmas are brought up. This is what I love so much about Diane's books, she always makes you think and causes you to put yourself in the shoes of the characters involved. As i was reading I was constantly pondering my own views, would I have taken the same decisions? Would I have done something differently? How do I know what is right and what is wrong? I REALLY want to talk about it but I'm going to keep quiet because in this case it is best to go in without any outside influences, so that everything can unravel at the right tie and so you all can make up your own minds.
Above all, this is an extremely emotional novel. I couldn't concentrate on anything else whilst I was involved in this novel, and I even took to talking to my husband about the characters and their situations as though they were my best friends. I warn you: this is an emotional rollercoaster of a book! I laughed with them, I smiled at some scenes and my heart was touched by the beautiful writing and some of the actions of the characters, And at the same time there were some truly shocking moments that had me gasping for breath, I disliked certain characters with a passion and oh how I cried - I used up so many tissues sobbing.
Necessary Lies opens you up to a world of poverty, discrimination, and the harsh world that is sometimes around us. But in this novel there is also hope, strength courage and true determination. I was blown away by this novel, it is truly outstanding.
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on 1 August 2013
'Necessary Lies' centers on two young women, Jane Forrester and Ivy Hart. 22-year-old Jane recently married and is very much middle-class. Even though her husband Robert makes enough money as a pediatrician to support them both she's desperate to have her own job for a while, as she wants to help other people before she inevitably becomes pregnant and housebound. She manages to find a job as a social worker in the welfare department and when her boss has an accident Jane is thrown into the field much sooner than expected and quite unprepared she has to use her instincts to try to make the right decisions for the families in her care.
The Hart family is one of particular importance to Jane. Grandmother 'Nonnie' lives with her teenaged granddaughters Ivy and Mary Ella, and the latter's 2-year-old son Baby William, in a tiny little house on the land of the Gardiners. Ivy and Mary Ella's father was tragically killed in a farming accident when they were still little and Mr Gardiner feels responsible so lets them live in the house for free. In return, the Harts continue to work on his tobacco fields. Mary Ella is feeble minded and when she became pregnant aged just fourteen taking care of the family became Ivy's responsibility, despite her being two years her sister's junior. Now with Baby William roaming around looking for trouble around every corner and Nonnie becoming more ill and weaker by the day the strain is really getting to Ivy. The only thing she finds solace in is the secret nights spend with the Gardiners' son, Henry Allen, who is her boyfriend.
As Jane grows fond of the Hart family and uncovers some horrifying deep-buried secrets she has to decide whether she chooses to do what everyone says she should be doing, based solely on the fact that the Harts are living in extreme poverty and have a bleak future ahead of them, or what she thinks would be the right choice in their case - and Ivy in particular, a girl she sees a lot of potential in despite the discouraging circumstances.
Some months the majority of novels I read I can only classify as average at best and other months I read one amazing book after another; July definitely falls in the second category. I've been fortunate to receive some fantastic titles recently that while wildly different are all noteworthy, gripping and memorable. 'Necessary Lies' is all these things because it is an absolute eye-opener and a heartbreaking one at that. It's not only exceptionally well-written fiction but author Diane Chamberlain has also incorporated a piece of genuine history not often explored in commercial women's literature; the Eugenics Sterilization Program, which is something I'd associate with Nazi Germany not the swinging sixties.
In fact, the extreme poverty, racial segregation and general descriptions of rural North Carolina emit the feeling that the story is set in the late nineteenth century not the 1960s, as I can't imagine anyone living in these shocking conditions in the same period in the Netherlands which is when my parents were growing up. It is easy to get lost in long bygone days when reading the pages but then the mention of much more modern concepts, such as a television, pull the reader right back into the 20th century and the harsh realisation that these horrors happened really not all that long ago and perhaps behind closed doors may still be continuing.
Distressing and immensely sad yet also intriguing and educational, 'Necessary Lies' is a poignant and powerful must-read novel about family, exploitation and defying expectations based on wealth, race and social generalisations.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2013
VERY GOOD BOOK!
Good story, good contextual historical setting, good style, all well connected and intriguing. It's easy to relate to the main characters and feel their dilemmas, pains and failings.
I am going to read more of Dianne Chamberlain, based on this experience.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2015
4.5 stars. Highly recommended, I couldn't put this down, and I'm not sure if my overall impression was more sadness or horror.
Set primarily in the early 1960s, the two main charactrs (though there are lots of others) are a newly-married idealistic but naïve social worker, and a fifteen year old white girl who worked on a tobacco plantation. The connection between them is strong, but the social worker holds the young girl's life in her hands. I didn't know about the eugenics programme which forms the core of the plot line of this book, but there's lots of information about it in the author note at the end. It is shocking. Really, truly, horrific. And it really happened. The author makes the point that this case is toned down, deliberately 'ordinary' when she could have used much worse samples. I was so angry, and I was son upset reading this. And the fact that it was portrayed so believably made it harder to take.
Don't get me wrong though, this isn't a political book - well, not only. It's a really good story with really fascinating characters. Your heart goes out to them, but the lines are not so easily drawn either. There's rules broken that shouldn't have been. There's lots of unanswered ethical questions. And at the heart of it, a study of two really fascinating characters.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2013
A good story with strong characters and an easy read as the book is broken down into accessible bite sized chapters. I had no idea about the Eugenics programme so I found that very interesting. I didn't feel the book was particularly well written which is why I have given it three stars. I found it a bit too simplistic but nonetheless it was an enjoyable read.
on 6 November 2013
The book starts in present day, well 2011, and gives a brief cover on an event and then takes us back to 1960, North Carolina in America. Jane Forrester is a new wife, new graduate and looking to have a career. An anomaly for her time but desperate to have a career and help people she gets a job as a social worker. Jane is rich, married to a doctor and wants for nothing, her clients are struggling to survive, need help but are proud people. Jane finds herself drawn to one family in particular in a small rural community. Jane needs to keep to what is best for the community, the people and keep her personal feelings at bay or risk more than her job.
Aw this is a great story with sad and very real issues that were a "normal" part of society for the poorer people and how they where exploited. Forced sterilizations, women seen as outcasts for wanting something more than a baby, racism, in these days you take so much for granted and often forget the horrors inflicted upon previous generations.
The book focuses on relationships between the rich and the poor, societal attitudes, the love between families and how a look at human nature and just how good and bad it can be. The story is mostly told from the view point of Ivy, 15 years old and one of Jane's new clients, poor and limited education. The other is told from Jane's, both are from first person narrative and skillfully shows the stark differences between the world they inhibit.
I found it hard to put down and was really drawn in to the tale from the first few pages. Ivy is a great wee character and my heart went out to her for trying to take so much on her shoulders. Jane is a likable character but she annoyed me at times with some of her actions and even her docile attitude in regards to her husband at times. That said it reflects well the way a woman lived and was expected to live in the 1960s. It is a thought provoking book and certainly makes you think about society back when, if you didn't fit into what was deemed acceptable you could loose so much. At the end there is an authors note with some of the reading she undertook whilst preparing and writing this book, I aim to read some of them too as it is such a shocking and interesting subject. The chapters are named so you know who is talking, although they are so distinctive you would know without it and they are fairly short so you can dip in and out. Overall I really liked it so 4/5 for me this time. I of course will read this author again, I really enjoy her writing style and have read her before.
I was unsure whether I would take to this book, especially since the setting is in rural North Carolina in the 1960's. This was a time when race was divided and although we are now in the 20th century, racism is sadly still an issue for some in that part of the world. For that reason, I was undecided as to whether I really wanted to read this, but having read other DC books and loved them I started. I was pleased I made that choice as Diane Chamberlain has created a book that tells a story, and just that. She doesn't sensationalise anything about it, but creates a story that will maybe make readers aware of the struggles that went on at that time.
Jane Forrester is far from the norm' in the sixties as she is determined that although she is newly married, she still wants to have a career. I liked Jane and DC did an amazing job of recreating the unease that people felt in the sixties when women working was out of the ordinary. Very quickly we see Jane start her job as a social worker and are instantly taken into the world of the poorest people that are working in the tobacco fields. Ivy Hart is a young girl and lives with her Grandmother and sister. It took me not time to be transported to the conditions and type of life they had to lead.
As the story unfolds and we meet more workers and we begin to see the effects of the Eugenics Programme which was widely used in the sixties, and something I had never heard of until reading this book. As the book progresses you begin to see that there is a lot more to it that at first glance. The story peels back layers and weaves an absolutely gripping storyline making it impossible to stop reading. It's a pretty sad story in one respect but one which had an absolutely amazing ending and a story that I loved from start to finish. Diane Chamberlain has singled herself out as an outstanding author by touching the reader emotionally, but at the same time still producing an amazing story which highlights historical events that some people may know nothing about.
This may not be for everybody as the subject matter may be too sensitive for some, but I found it absolutely gripping and would highly recommend it. It's a book that will have remain in my memory banks for some time and I think if you haven't read it you should certainly give it a try.
Necessary Lies tells the story of Jane Forrester and Ivy Hart. Jane is young and newly married to Robert, a pediatrician. She is desperate to have a career of her own before starting a family, very much against her husband's wishes. She obtains a job as a social worker and from the start, she is thrown in at the deep end and has to trust her instincts when dealing with the poorer families in her care - which includes the Harts.
Ivy is 15 years old and lives with her ailing grandmother Nonnie, elder sister Mary Ella and baby William in a tiny house on the estate of her employer, Davison Gardiner. In return for the free lodgings Ivy and Mary Ella work for a pittance on the Davison's tobacco farm. Mary Ella is 17 and classed as "feebleminded". She has a young baby, 2 year old William and thus Ivy shoulders the responsibility of trying to look after the family in a situation of extreme poverty.
Ivy has dreams of her own and she and her boyfriend, Henry Allen, the only son of Davison Gardiner meet up secretly and plan their future, far away from Grace County.
Jane discovers a shocking secret about the Hart family and indeed, this is something that affects other families in similar circumstances in the County including friends and neighbours of the Harts. She is faced with a dilemma and her decision could have devastating consequences for the Hart family and also for her own life.
Such is the level of extreme poverty, racial segregation and harsh treatment of those on welfare payments, it was hard to believe that this story was set in 1960 America and not in much earlier times. Even though she comes from a middle class family, Jane is not immune from the prejudices of the time and she faces being ostracized by some of her peers because of her decision to work, especially in the career field that she has chosen. It appears that the state has decided that because these families are on welfare, they do not have the right to decide their own destiny and decisions must be made for them. There were still great divides between white and black with segregation being the norm.
The author has incorporated into the story the Eugenics programme, which was in place from 1929 until 1975. I had heard about this in relation to Nazi war times but didn't realize that the US also had its own similar programme continuing in much later years. It is truly shocking to think that the most vulnerable people were subject to decisions made by others simply because they were regarded as "mentally defective" or had certain illnesses.
This was a compelling read and the sense of poverty and hopelessness that such families suffered is almost too difficult to comprehend. This is not only a fictional story but also an educational one.
I've always enjoyed reading Diane Chamberlain's books however this one is particularly hard hitting and thought provoking and one which I would definitely recommend.
There is also an e-book available called "The First Lie" which is a prequel set two years before this story starts and is an introduction to Ivy Hart and her sister Mary Ella. I read this after I had read Necessary Lies and I don't really think it makes a difference whether you read it before or after the main book
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Set in North Carolina, 1960, this is the story of Jane, a young social worker, and Ivy, a 15 year old who lives with her grandmother and older sister. They take turns narrating the story by chapter. Initially I was far more interested in Jane's story but as the book progresses I got wrapped up in both characters.
One of the fascinating things about the book is how dramatically attitudes have changed in the past 50 years. For starters, there is Jane's husband's attitude towards her working - which is shared by many of their contemporaries. Then there is the callous way that the State feels it can mastermind the lives of women on welfare. While the story is fictional, the background is not, which makes it even more horrifying.
This is a tremendously readable book and for a large part of it I had absolutely no idea how the author could resolve all the different problems that were being thrown up. It does get a little silly towards the very end and I also felt that the prologue at the beginning added nothing to the book. Nevertheless if you enjoyed The Help (and who didn't?), you are very likely to enjoy this too.