Helen Dunmore || The Lie

In The Lie main character Daniel is living a nightmare: he has returned from World War 1, shell shocked, bereft and mourning his best friend Frederick. On his return home he finds that he no longer has a job or a house to call a home. Villager Mary takes pity on him and lets him camp on her land. When she dies, that is where he buries her. He neglects to tell the other villagers of her wish to be buried there; he tells them she is very sick. He just wants to be left alone but comes to regret his lie.
A single word or smell can bring back the war to Daniel. Through subtle changes between present and past Dunmore takes her readers along the events that have led to Frederick’s death and Daniel’s shell shock The madness of World War 1 is slowly but certainly shown. Daniel is just one of many who can be sacrificed for the greater good and is left to his own resources when all is over. Plagued by nightmares in which Frederick comes to visit him, accompanied by the dreadful smell of the trenches, Daniel tries to sort out his life. Not wishing for much, just to be allowed to work the land and tend the goat and chickens. A change comes when Frederick’s sister Felicia comes to visit him. Through their mutual love for Frederick they are drawn to each other and Daniel finally experiences some hope. At the end of the novel nightmare and lie come together in an impressive way, releasing Daniel.
Dunmore has written a stark novel that impresses through its subtle and flawless switches between present and past. It allows Dunmore to paint a beautiful friendship between two boys with completely different backgrounds. It also allows her to paint the atrocity of a war in which officers like Frederick lead soldiers like Daniel to a certain death. In this case though Frederick is killed in action leaving Daniel feeling guilty, I was left wondering whether Frederick was not infinitely more guilty for putting his friend in this position. In the end it does not matter: The Lie is foremost a novel about two friends discovering the depths of their feelings, the war a mere – though harsh – instrument in this discovery.

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About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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