The New York Times bestselling author of the Maisie Dobbs series turns her prodigious talents to this World War I standalone novel, a lyrical drama of love struggling to survive in a damaged, fractured world.
By July 1914, the ties between Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden, friends since girlhood, have become strained—by Thea’s passionate embrace of women’s suffrage, and by the imminent marriage of Kezia to Thea’s brother, Tom, who runs the family farm. When Kezia and Tom wed just a month before war is declared between Britain and Germany, Thea’s gift to Kezia is a book on household management—a veiled criticism of the bride’s prosaic life to come. Yet when Tom enlists to fight for his country and Thea is drawn reluctantly onto the battlefield, the farm becomes Kezia’s responsibility. Each must find a way to endure the ensuing cataclysm and turmoil.
As Tom marches to the front lines, and Kezia battles to keep her ordered life from unraveling, they hide their despair in letters and cards filled with stories woven to bring comfort. Even Tom’s fellow soldiers in the trenches enter and find solace in the dream world of Kezia’s mouth-watering, albeit imaginary meals. But will well-intended lies and self-deception be of use when they come face to face with the enemy?
Published to coincide with the centennial of the Great War, The Care and Management of Lies paints a poignant picture of love and friendship strained by the pain of separation and the brutal chaos of battle. Ultimately, it raises profound questions about conflict, belief, and love that echo in our own time.
(Synopsis and image via Goodreads)
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Fiction / Historical Fiction / WWI
Published: July 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 319 pages
I only recently discovered Jacqueline Winspear and her delightful Maisie Dobbs series. With little reading experience of those delightful mysteries, I make no comparison between those works and The Care and Management of Lies.
Winspear provides in her notes the catalyst for this story of World War I was a book on home management she found in an antique book shop. Over time, she imagined a story of a young couple starting life together when the war rips their existence in half, sending the husband off to war and leaving behind a young wife, only recently uprooted from a more social existence, to manage a farm.
Tom, the husband, is eager to prove to his laborers his feeling of equality with them by fighting the enemy. His sister, Thea, always the suffragette and feminist, sees Tom’s wife, Kezia, her lifelong good friend, as someone leaving all her dreams behind to run the farm.
Yet these good friends keep up a flame of hope by lying to one another in their letters or lack thereof. A favorite piece of the intimacy continued by Kezia with Tom is found in her letters to him describing the meals she is cooking daily for the farm hands. Quite the concoctions, she has Tom reading the letters aloud to his bunker mates whose mouths drool and stomachs growl. However, Kezia isn’t cooking such sumptuous meals at all. She only wants Tom to dream of coming home to her and the farm.
The setting is bucolic and pleasant, the potential is great for a strong plot and story line, the characterizations are good, but in the end this book fell flat for me. The ending anticipated, whether good or bad, should have been a stronger one.
I do credit Winspear with excellent historical research. Any fact checking you might do will find that her writing is spot on with truth and substantiated by fact.
I do not encourage or discourage you from reading The Care and Management of Lies. There are some very enjoyable parts. But there are also some places where you’d like the pace to pick up a bit and then there’s the ending. If you are a lover of historical fiction and World War I, you might give it a try after reading some other reviews.