Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: The Care and Management of Lies
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Audible
Content Alert: War violence, some swearing

In The Care and Management of Lies, Jacqueline Winspear departs from her favorite heroine (Maisie Dobbs), but not from her favorite place and time period (rural England, World War I). Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden met as scholarship girls at an English boarding school (just like Maisie, only about a decade ahead of her time) and became the best of friends. However, as the book opens, on the eve of Kezia's marriage to Thea's brother, Tom, the women's relationship is strained. Thea doesn't want to be held down to the country life that Kezia seems to embrace, and has even changed her nickname (from Dorrit, short for Dorothea) to demonstrate her break with her previous life. However, as war breaks out, Kezia finds herself being the emotional support to both Thea and Tom as she writes them letters while they serve their country. The letters to Tom, in which she creates lovely, imaginary feasts to show her love for him (and her blooming farm-housewife skills), are particularly sweet and evocative, and they encourage not just Tom, but also the men he serves with.

Winspear seems to hit all of the social highlights of the war (the changing roles of women, the white feather distributors, the anti-war protesters, the bullying in the ranks, the relationship between noblemen and everyday Englishmen on the battlefield) while still creating an engaging and poignant love story. I'll warn you now, this is a super-sad story, and also a sweet story. I love how it shows Kezia's transformation as she gains self-confidence in running a farm. It doesn't have the epic qualities of Maisie Dobbs, but it's also a single volume, so the inevitable comparison in my mind probably isn't a fair one.

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