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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
The Lie
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on 23 May 2016
Well written but I got a bit bored at times.
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on 25 August 2015
I found this hard going.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 January 2014
A pensive and tragic story, Helen Dunmore's thirteenth book is set in Cornwall in 1920, where we find ourselves in the company of Daniel Branwell, a young man who has returned from the Great War, physically whole, but emotionally damaged from his experiences, in particular from the death of his childhood friend, Frederick. Daniel has no family; his father died when he was a small boy and his mother passed away while he was fighting at the front. Since he arrived back in Cornwall, an ailing elderly woman, Mary Pascoe, has been giving Daniel food and shelter in return for him working on her smallholding. When Mary is dying, Daniel finds himself making her a promise and in order to carry out her wishes, he has to lie to those around him, but this is not the only lie that Daniel has to live with.

Keen to stay in the area in which he and Frederick grew up, Daniel remains at Mary's tumbledown cottage, tending to her garden and looking after her animals, but although his days are quiet, his nights are interrupted by visits from a ghostly Frederick, covered with mud and slime from the trenches and smelling of rotten flesh and cordite. (No spoilers, we learn all of this early in the novel). Trying to keep his hold on his imagination and his sanity, Daniel soon comes into contact with Frederick's sister, the war-widowed Felicia, who still lives in the large house she and Frederick grew up in. As Daniel spends time re-acquainting himself with Felicia and with his past life, we gradually learn about Daniel's and Frederick's childhood and of the difference in their social positions - Daniel is a bookish child but has to leave school at eleven to help his widowed mother, whereas Frederick, who does not have Daniel's love of learning, is sent to a fee-paying school; when they enter the army, Daniel joins the ranks, but Frederick enters as an officer. As we read on, we learn of how Daniel's and Frederick's friendship develops and of their terrible experiences fighting at the front.

An accomplished storyteller, Helen Dunmore deftly shows how although her hero may have escaped death on the battlefield, he can never really escape from the 'long shadow' of war, nor from the guilt he feels from surviving when others did not. Beautifully written (the author is also a poet) this literary novel with its extracts of poetry and its marvellous descriptions of situation and setting pulled me into Daniel's story from the first page and kept me involved from start to finish. An emotive, poignant and rather intense reading experience.

Also recommended if you are interested in WW1 and its aftermath: Wake and Toby's Room
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on 14 November 2014
bit predictable
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 27 January 2014
It’s inevitable, I guess, and wholly appropriate, that this year will see a great number of novels addressing the horror and aftermath of the First World War. I’ve already read and reviewed the wonderful Wake by Anna Hope, and I’d highly recommend it to all.

Helen Dunmore is an author with whom I have a bit of a love/hate relationship – the writing is always exquisite, but for every book of hers I’ve loved (The Betrayal was quite excellent) there are others I just haven’t been able to fully engage with. But her latest, The Lie, published on 16th January by Random House UK/Cornerstone, is an absolute “must read” for all.

The story is quite a simple one. Daniel, broken and damaged by his wartime experience, returns to Cornwall, where he tends the crops for elderly recluse Mary Pascoe. He meets up again with Felicia, the fragile sister of his boyhood friend Frederick – the friend who died when they were on a wartime raid, and whose ghost interrupts his sleep. In a series of flashbacks, we experience the boys’ childhood, Daniel’s of poverty, Frederick’s of privilege but great cruelty. And the story of what actually happened to Frederick is told through Daniel’s eyes, a heady mix of poetry and vivid description that will stay with me for a very long time.

The story unfolds slowly – the gentleness of Daniel’s relationship with Felicia set against the detailed descriptions of wartime horror. This won’t be a book everyone will enjoy, but I thought it was quite perfectly paced as the story moved to its inevitable conclusion under war’s “long shadow”. Quite beautiful – give it a try.

They say the war's over, but they're wrong. It went too deep for that.

My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.
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on 15 October 2017
Romantic love between two men caught in war. Beautifully described and achingly sad.
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on 19 January 2015
I loved this book, I felt the main character was complex, well drawn and wholly believable, and I'm bewildered by some of the negative reviews who found it boring and poorly describing trench warfare. This story had a strong focus on the main character's difficulty in reconnecting with civilian life, and the strange world he formed around him that enabled him to feel "safe", with the trench warfare accounts serving to provide the background to his mental disintegration. I found it to be a deeply touching story. Some have compared it unfavourably with BIrdsong (which tbh I feel is greatly over-rated, spoiled by the very poorly drawn love interest), and Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy (which is on a whole different level of suffering), but this book stands well on its own, so don't let that put you off. It's a much more personal and intimate study, and I found it compulsive reading, well written, and very moving.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 28 June 2014
It's 1920, and Daniel has returned home to Cornwall after fighting in the trenches during World War 1. He is scarred by what he has seen but most of all by the death of his lifelong friend Frederick. Unable to face returning into the town where he grew up, he camps out on a farm outside of town that is owned by a dying old lady. She asks him to do something which becomes the lie on which the book is centered.

This is a slow moving story about the long tern effects of war and the difficulties adjusting back into life afterwards. The only person that Daniel feels any connection with is Frederick's younger sister Felecia, who is herself grieving the loss of both her brother and her husband. As the book progresses we find out more about Daniel's life story, what happened in the war and the consequences that the lie will bring.

I really liked this book. I can see that it could drive someone crazy, as the pace is slow and the wartime scenes keep haunting Daniel. For me though, I felt like I was totally inside Daniel's head and I also felt in increasingly tense as the book went on about what might happen to him. By the end I felt emotionally exhausted and I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened to him. It's a haunting and powerful read.
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on 9 September 2014
The Lie begins is the story of a soldier returning from the trenches after WW1. Because he cannot face the community with whom he grew up he agrees to live with an old dying friend of his mother. He sleeps in a home made shack near to her cottage and looks after her , respecting her wish not to call for the doctor. When she dies he buries her in her garden believing that this was what she wanted and moves into her cottage.

Realising that the people in the village would be suspicious he pretends that she is still alive. This results in him living a totally isolated existence in which he suffers recurring nightmares about his experiences in the war interspersed with memories of his childhood with Freddie and Felicia his childhood friends. When he meets up again with Felicia they reestablish their relationship which is now centred on their shared sorrow about the death, in battle of Frederick.

The three stories of Dan's attempt to recover from his war experiences, his childhood and the traumas are told through flashbacks interspersing the present day story in , what I found, a very irritating manner. Just as I was getting involved in his childhood relationship with Freddie we were taken back to Freddie on the battle field. Although this was a convincing way of representing his troubled mind that could not deal with the present because of the horrors that he had experienced in the past I felt that there was not enough in each section to get the reader really involved in each story before being taken off again into the past or the present. For example there was a very touching scene in which Freddie was abused by his father but we were never told what the consequences of this were and it was never referred to again.

This was a book that I felt that I should have enjoyed. It was psychologically convincing, it told a story that was poignant with detail with beautiful passages of describing the country side ,horrific descriptions of what the soldiers had to endure in the trenches and in battle and touching glimpses into the the hardship of Dan' s childhood. And yet I found that I had to force myself to pick it up. For some reason I just didn't care. Maybe it was because the story never seemed to be going anywhere. Like Dan it was stuck in the past and not able to move forward which made for an un compelling narrative.

I have read many of Helen Dunmore's novels before and I have been totally riveted by them . This one disappointed.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 January 2014
Helen Dunmore is on top form with her latest novel. It's a beautifully written and accomplished novel set in Cornwall in 1920. Daniel Branwell arrives home from the trenches, physically unscathed but emotionally and psychologically damaged. His mother died while he was away and he finds refuge with old and solitary Mary Pascoe, who lets him build a shelter on her small-holding in exchange for some practical help. But although the war is over, he can find no real peace here, for he remains haunted by the loss of his childhood friend Frederick. He reconnects with Frederick's sister Felicia, but she too is grieving and the losses of war are not easily forgotten.
The story develops slowly and quietly, perfectly paced, alternating between Daniels' day-to-day life and his wartime memories. It's a short book, but powerful and brilliantly imagined. The descriptions are vivid and atmospheric and the characters real and sympathetic. The first person narrative allows the reader to fully engage with Daniel and his attempts to rebuild his life and keep his sanity, but the individual tragedies of war transform lives in ways that are sometime impossible to deal with. There will be many books about WWI and its aftermath during 2014 no doubt, but this will surely be rated one of the best.
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