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The care and management of lies – A novel of the Great War by Jacqueline Winspear

Post Date: September 17, 2014 by josiemounsey

In this her standalone novel, set in the early months of World War I, Jacqueline Winspear, the author of the Maisie Dobbs series, steps away from the classic mould of war novels.  However, the passive writing style diminishes what is, in essence, a good storyline.  Opportunities to make scenes come alive are lost.  Even amid bloody battles and the squalor of the trenches at the front line, the reader is lulled into a false sense of pastoral peace by the recounting of newly-wed Kezia Brissenden’s letters to her soldier-husband, Tom, in which she describes the imaginary meals she has cooked for him.  It is difficult to engage with Kezia when she is weeping over the onions while village boys die on the battlefield.


The characters aren’t developed enough for the reader to feel the emotions and heartache associated with the rupture of lives caused by war.  Similarly, Kezia’s strained relationship with Tom’s sister, Thea, is ‘told’ in terms of contrasts between their lives – Kezia, the farmer’s wife, and Thea’s more worldly embrace of the suffragette movement.



One aspect that came over well was the rhythm of the countryside and its changing seasons.  Using this as a backdrop (or character) would have been more powerful than the fanciful use of food when half the world was starving.



In the hundred years since the start of the Great War, many such novels have been published.  Far more engaging and powerful than Winspear’s narrative are Alan Cumyn’s ‘The Sojourn,’ and the epic ‘The Flowers of the Field,’ by Sarah Harrison, which coincidentally also starts in the bucolic Kent countryside.


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