The basics: The Care and Management of Lies focuses on three characters: Kezia, Thea, and Tom. Tom and Thea are brother and sister. Kezia and Thea are lifelong best friends...until Kezia marries Tom.
My thoughts: World War I and its lingering effects feature prominently in the Maisie Dobbs series, so I was curious to see how Winspear tackled the war itself. The story begins before the war, and thus the reader knows what's to come better than the characters do. The subtitle "A Novel of the Great War" makes it abundantly clear, and yet it takes some time to get to the actual war itself. It takes even longer for any of the three main characters to get to the war. Herin lies the two connected problems of this novel: it doesn't quite know what kind of novel it wants to be and its pace is off.
There is a lot of good in this novel. The triangular relationships of Kezia, Thea and Tom are fascinating. All three have changed in ways that impact their relationships with one another. Kezia's journey from urban teacher to farm wife is entertaining, if not terribly original. Thea's increasing involvement in the suffrage movement is intriguing both for the changes it brings to her as an individual and its insight into the movement itself. The delicate negotiations of Kezia and Tom as they learn to live as a married couple had a quiet beauty to it. The reader gets to learn about the land and farming by seeing it through Tom's veteran eyes and Kezia's fresh eyes.
The set-up in this novel is quite interesting, and I can't help but think it's a shame the war had to come and wreck what was an illuminating and entertaining novel. If Winspear's point was to illustrate how the war impacted so many lives, she makes it, but the war scenes aren't as enchanting as the pre-war scenes. Much has been written about World War I, and there wasn't enough new here to keep my attention.
The verdict: The Care and Management of Lies is a moderately entertaining novel that I read in spurts over several months. It wasn't bad enough to abandon, but it wasn't good enough to read with any sense of urgency. Readers who like World War I and domestic fiction will likely find much to enjoy.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 341 pages
Publication date: July 1, 2014
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