One of the real perks of bookselling is getting a chance to read great new books before anyone else. Last week I read Helen Dunmore’s ‘The Lie’ , a novel set around the First World War, and my only problem will be waiting until publication in mid-January to be able to share it with customers.
The story is centred around Daniel, a young man returning to his home in the West Country after the end of the war. He no longer has any family but has an emotional connection to both a local girl, the sister of a childhood friend, and to the land itself. He has survived the war, although his friend did not, but we see that he has not left the horrors of war behind. He is haunted by memories – even the soil he works reminds him of the mud of the trenches – and also by the childhood he shared with Frederick and his sister.
In the end Daniel is trapped by his lies – mostly about the old woman whose home he is living in but also by lies about his past and his feelings for Frederick. You feel that he is a very lonely character – isolated by both his experiences and by his love of words and reading – but one who could, under other circumstances, have lived a full and loving life. This book reminds us that the effects of war are felt long after the armistice is called.