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on 24 May 2017
Necessary Lies was a bit of a slow starter for me. I didn't find the characters immediately accessible and most of the early chapters are scene and character setting, so not a lot was happening to grab my interest.

Once the plot really started to develop, my opinion completely changed. The characters were utterly compelling and I was fully invested in their happiness. From approximately halfway through the book I lost the ability to put it down...I just had to know what happened next!

Some of the issues raised in the story were unfamiliar and shocking to me. I was aware of eugenics as it related to the atrocities of Nazi Germany, but had no idea that these practices occurred elsewhere under the guise of social care. Alongside smaller, but also shocking to me, events like a woman needing her husband's permission to access contraception, Diane Chamberlain paints a horrifyingly real picture of the restrictions of womanhood and poverty combined that has left me with much food for thought long after the final page.

There were a few mysteries along the way, mostly relating to character's histories, and one in particular that could be considered a twist (which I won't ruin here!). I had already guessed part of that secret before it was revealed, but was kept guessing in other areas, which was refreshing for me as I am generally a competent plot-predictor.

Whilst the ending deviated somewhat from the strict realism of the rest of the novel, I am glad that Chamberlain opted for a *spoiler* happy ending for her characters. Without it the story would just have been too sad and bleak, but thankfully we are left with a satisfying, if convenient, conclusion which I fear did not materialise for the real life counterparts of our protagonists.

I recommend this book for fans of historical fiction and dilemma novels of the Jodi Picault kind. It is a harrowing, fascinating, entertaining read, that examines big moral questions but in a well-written, readable style.
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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.

Loved this.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 March 2016
I couldn't put this book down. It tells the story of Jane Forrester, a woman in 1960 working for the Department of Public Welfare in the deep south of America. She's new to the job and finds it hard to detach herself emotionally from the families she is dealing with. One of her families is the Hart family and in particular 15 year old Ivy and her 17 year old sister, Mary Ella. They work in tobacco fields and live in poverty. The biggest part of the story relates to a moral dilemma facing Jane, and this made the book such an interesting read, especially when you consider it's based on reality.

The book alternates between being told from the points of view of Jane and Ivy. I was never confused as to who was 'speaking' as each has a very distinctive voice. I raced through the story - Diane Chamberlain has such a human way of writing, enabling me as a reader to feel empathy with the characters. Add to that her ability to write such interesting and morally complex storylines and this guarantees a fab read.
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on 5 April 2018
I'd not read a Diane Chamberlain book in about 2 years as I've been discovering lots of new authors and new genres for me. So I wasn't sure if my reading tastes had moved away from this style of book but it had been on my kindle for quite a while and I fancied giving it a read.
Well my tastes definitely haven't moved away too far as I'd forgotten how well Diane tells a story and this one quite shockingly is based on facts. I read the whole book over 2 days and enjoyed every page.
Diane's style of writing is very captivating and this book as reminded me of my love of her books. I shall definitely be working my way through any others that I have on kindle over the coming months. I did not realise how many of her books I've actually so unfortunately it's many.
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VINE VOICEon 23 March 2016
I enjoyed this book a lot, and found it "unputdownable", to the extent that I put aside the (paper) book I had started earlier in order to finish this on my Kindle app. But as I have got further away from it, I begin to feel that I enjoyed it in much the way I might enjoy a sticky toffee pudding - compelling and enjoyable while I'm eating it, but really doesn't have enough texture to become a regular part of my diet .

Strong points:
- Ivy and her thoughts about her world; I thought ivy's voice came across really well (and I loved that Henry Allen wasn't just a shallow teenage boy, but really cared about her)
- the other poor "trash" characters and the descriptions of their lives
- the historical aspects, highlighting the shocking activities and morals of the Eugenics Board and "social workers"; I had read about this before, but I had no idea it still went on as late as the 60s (though if you read the author's note at the end of the book, North Carolina was the last state to continue the programme)
- Jane's backstory, especially the loss of her sister and father, which was handled with a very light touch
- there was an interesting point towards the end where Jane and Robert start to realise that they haven't been completely honest with each other ... and that part of being honest with another person is the ability/willingness to be honest with yourself (which can be much harder!).

- I thought that if the author was trying to ask the question "are lies sometimes necessary?", then she didn't do it very well. I would have liked to have seen Jane (and the reader) put in a situation where she would have real doubts about whether she should always tell the truth
- the character of Robert, who was very one-dimensional and his empathy for his child patients didn't chime with his lack of empathy for Jane. This was a necessary plot device (Chamberlain needed him to go away leaving Jane alone in the house), and I felt it weakened the whole book
- in fact, now I think about it, I feel the whole thing was unnecessarily black and white - Jane was "good", Charlotte and Robert were "bad"; some shades of grey would have been refreshing
- the happy ending; this was like adding icing to the sticky toffee pudding - unnecessary and overly sweet.

Overall, I think the reason I enjoyed reading it so much is that it had "flow" - the story and characters carried me along. And that the criticisms I make (my desire for more "texture") would, if addressed, disrupt the "flow", which is very much a feature of the way authors like Diane Chamberlain write.
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on 6 May 2017
A really great read. I felt so captured by the story of Ivy Hart and Jane's journey that I just couldn't put this book down for long! The eugenics movement was written about in a realistic, non-dramatised manner, which just added to how awful it must have been for those affected by it. I did find some aspects of the last few chapters a bit predictable but it honestly didn't distract from how authentic and engaging this book was! Definitely recommend if you're interested in 1960s history surrounding forced sterilisation and social work.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 February 2016
This story is told from the points of view of two young women, Jane a newly qualified social worker and Ivy, a fifteen year old working on a tobacco plantation in North Carolina. It takes place around 1960. It points to the social mores of the time. The family, poor white and, apart from Ivy's sister's toddler, female are part of Jane's caseload and she eventually admits to becoming too involved. Her doctor husband is against her working, too, as he feels it implies he isn't earning enough to keep her. Jane is determined to do things her own way and trouble ensues.

This book is enthralling. You can feel the inequality between the two girls' lives and the unfairness Jane is trying to overcome. Added into this is the state's interference through a eugenics programme which Jane tries to fight against and you can see how gripping it is. I couldn’t help asking myself what I’d have done in Jane’s shoes. She tried to do the right thing by her own standards but it sometimes made the situation worse. The characters are wholly believable and sadly, much of what is told here is based on truth. Unmissable. Unforgettable.
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on 1 December 2014
Almost hard to believe that this book is a fictional story, (although based on real events in recent American history). The characters are so real and it is is written so well I felt I wanted to find out what became of them all. I was dubious about buying it after reading 'The first Lie' but I am so glad I did. The difficulties Jane found herself in and created for others, by 'doing the right thing' unfolded brilliantly within the story.

As someone who has worked with and supported vulnerable young people, I could easily relate to the dichotomy she faced every day, from the expectations of her supervising colleagues and her own desire to 'help' the unfortunate people she was charged with monitoring. Throw in her selfish, self centred husband and what a recipe for disaster.

I rarely get through a book so quickly,being just a bedtime reader, I usually fall asleep after a few pages, but I could hardly put it down and when I did I couldn't wait to pick it up again to find out what happens next.

My only disappointment was that I wanted to know what happened to all of the people that were affected by Ivy and Jane's actions. The jump to 2011 was a bigger leap than I wanted, but perhaps that was only because the story was so compelling and the people so real.

Highly recommended read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 October 2013
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.
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on 12 October 2014
This is the first of her books I have read. To begin with I thought it was going to be rather silly, starting in the present, moving back to what I assumed would be the 19th century and then with a bit of the 60s thrown in too. Actually, I was expecting a ghost story by chapter 3. Once I made the connection between Ivy and Jan I soon became gripped. It's a good story and written at an exciting pace. I too had no idea that there had been such a programme in the USA and it shocked me. I felt an affinity with Jane, always trying to do the right thing and so often causing more trouble. I liked the happy ending.
Wasn't Robert an arrogant, selfish nit wit? And 10 years out of date at least, I hope? I was glad we didn't hear what happened to him. As for The Wives, they reminded me of the episode in Suburgatory where the Football Girlfriends submerge their personalities in their boyfriends! Yuk!
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