This was received as an ebook from Random House UK/ Cornerstone publishers via NetGalley. I requested it as I thought a new book on the First World War was apt to read now, whilst we commemorate one hundred years since it broke out in July 1914.
The Lie is a quiet, sad story of a young man returned to his native Cornwall from the trenches, haunted by the loss of his best friend Frederick. Daniel tries to avoid the world by living in the cottage of a mad old woman, tending to her garden and livestock, burying her in a corner of grass as she asks him when she dies. He rekindles the friendship (romance?) he had with Frederick’s younger sister, Felicia, who is now a mother and also mourning the loss of her brother and husband. All the while he thinks back to his childhood and to his time in France and Frederick’s death.
It is a slow moving book, building to a not exactly dramatic but perhaps inevitable climax. It explores some interesting themes such as the class divide in pre-WWI England and how that, sort of, changed after 1918. And of course, most importantly, the horrors of war. Daniel is left deeply traumatised by his experiences which he can’t get out of his head. The title, The Lie, is an interesting one as there are, perhaps, three lies to which it could refer. One, the letter he wrote Felicia telling her about Frederick’s honourable death when he is racked with guilt that it was his fault. Two, that Mary Pascoe (the old woman who’s house he is living in) is alive but unwell and he is looking after her. Or maybe it refers to “the old lie” of Wilfred Owen’s poem- “Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori” (it is sweet and good to die for your country).