The Lie by Helen Dunmore is a novel of the first world war.
When Daniel Branwell returns to Cornwall from the horror of World War 1 trench warfare, he finds himself homeless and without family. Daniel’s mother died while he was away and home has changed for him.
Daniel befriends an elderly woman, Mary Pascoe whom he nurses up to the time of her death. Foolishly, perhaps, he accedes to Mary’s request to be buried on her own land. He then conceals Mary’s death from her neighbours while he lives in her house and works her land. It is a quiet and lonely existence and Daniel is haunted by the ghost of his childhood friend, Frederick Dennis whom he saw die in the trenches.
Troubled by guilt, Daniel lives in the constant shadow of fear. “Fear is a taste and smell more than a feeling, at least I’ve found it so.”
The Lie is very much an account of Daniel’s interior life from which emerges the backstory of his relationship with Frederick. The haunting figure of Frederick, always covered in mud, always terrifying is never far from Daniel’s mind’s eye. But important as the ghost is throughout this novel, the horror of the trenches and the long tail impact of war is ultimately what remains with the reader. The Lie is essentially one man’s simple story, beautifully written, lyrical, believable and nicely balanced. If you are looking for action-filled world war one fiction, The Lie is probably not the novel for you, but for readers interested in the long term psychological impact of war who enjoy good writing this is an accomplished novel and a satisfying read.
Published by Random House/Cornerstone.
Disclosure: An ARC was made available via Netgalley for the purpose of this review.