The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War
by Jacqueline Winspear
July 1, 2014
Jacqueline Winspear’s eleventh novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was recently published and the publication date preceded the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI by just a few weeks. The publication date followed the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria’s 100th anniversary by 2 days. Ms. Winspear has taken a break from her beloved (especially by me) Maisie Dobbs series to introduce a different story with different characters and one that is not a cozy mystery. Instead, this historical fiction narrative focuses on the lives of a particular newlywed couple and others in their village in Kent and how the Great War affected the village and the surrounding community of farms.
Ms. Winspear listened to her grandfather tell stories of the war, as he had participated in WWI and was injured, his injuries affecting him the rest of his life. I recommend the novel because Ms. Winspear does an excellent job of showing how the lives of the common people were affected and what they sacrificed to defend their country. So many issues were touched upon in the book. Some of these subjects are how the poorest of the people wanted to enlist hoping that volunteering would bring them a little money and three square meals a day. The book brings forth the discrepancy of the landed gentry and college-educated men becoming officers automatically as it was during the Peninsular War a century earlier, even if they were not officer material. Also, a subplot involves a sergeant targeting a soldier who does nothing wrong just to make an example of him to deter the others from disobedience. I have seen this scenario before in the Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell. The book also touches on radical groups of the day such as the suffragettes and pacifists and how they tried to further their causes during the tumultuous times.
The novel centers on Kezia Marchant, her new husband and a farmer, Tom Brissenden, and Tom’s sister, Thea. Kezia and Thea were best friends and attended college together. Other characters were the farm workers, Tom’s soldier buddies, and a wealthy neighbor. Besides Tom enlisting, Thea volunteers as an ambulance driver in France (also a familiar story to me from Gabrielle Wills’ Muskoka trilogy).
When Tom and Kezia are married, Thea gives her best friend a “woman’s” book on running a household. Since she was not married and had no prospects and her best friend was “taking away” her only brother, the book was not given in a loving manner, but rather, the guidebook was given as a sarcastic gift meant to hurt. Ms. Winspear begins each chapter with a quote from the book (or occasionally from a war manual), which gives the reader pause for reflection in how valuable sometimes the information could or could not be depending on the true circumstances. The title of this novel is perfect, since isn’t that what war is all about—the care and management of lies? Lies from the military, lies from soldiers back to their families, lies between husbands and wives and families to the soldiers, lies between friends, lies between workers and employers, and lies from governments used to “protect” are explored.
–cover of a copy of the book Ms. Winspear stumbled
How appropriate to read this novel in modern times. Don’t we ever learn anything from history? Why do we go on and on repeating and making the same mistakes over and over again? Just a reminder, 9 million combatants died during World War I.
Following is the British cover for The Care and Management of Lies. Both illustrations were once again done by the extremely talented Andrew Davidson, the artist who has previously created all of the Maisie Dobbs covers.