The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War
by Jacqueline Winspear
This. Book. Captivated. Me. I read it in one day (it was due in a few days, so I had no choice but to set aside the day and read for most of it). 😉 Winspear wrote Maisie Dobbs, which I also really enjoyed, and which is what prompted me to read this one. The writing was enjoyable and drew me in from the first page. I fell in love with the characters and felt invested in them and their lives (which proved to be a problem . . .more on that later). I also really enjoyed reading about WWI from a different perspective.
The story takes place in WWI Britain. Two girls, Thea and Kezia, meet in school and bond immediately, in part because they are both there on scholarship. When they grow up, Kezia and Thea’s brother, Tom, fall in love and get married. Tom is a farmer, so Kezia begins learning how to be a farmer’s wife (she’s never cooked before!), when WWI begins. Slowly, the war comes to the countryside and Tom’s friends join up one by one. Before long, Tom joins up as well and leaves Kezia to run the farm in his place. Kezia slowly, but surely takes ownership of her role to run the farm and soon becomes adept at her tasks, cooking in particular. She keeps the farm running smoothly, even as things get progressively more difficult as the war drags on. Tom, meanwhile enters the army and unfortunately gets picked out as the scapegoat of his unit (a method utilized by his commanding officer, Knowles, to keep his men in order). Even though he gets singled out and mistreated, he stays true to himself and continues to be a respectful, honorable man. While all this time is passing, Kezia and Tom write back and forth, lying about their circumstances, so not to discourage each other. Kezia “cooks” elaborate meals for Tom to eat in her letters. She describes them in every detail, but in truth, she isn’t eating/cooking well at all. The “meals” keep Tom going as he’s relentlessly picked on (which he keeps out of his letters). Meanwhile, Thea is drifting, trying to find her place. She shifts from a suffragette to a pacifist, and when she is about to be discovered (and therefore, arrested), she takes an opportunity to enlist as a war ambulance driver, where she finds her place.
About to spoil the ending (since I want to remember!) . . .as I was reading, I really felt like Tom was not going to come home, but the writing gave me hope that he would. At the very end (literally, the last 6 pages-yes I just counted), Kezia learns through two letters that Tom died in combat and Thea died in an explosion. She pulls herself together by cooking, the rhythm of ceremony (she had started from the beginning of her marriage cooking and setting the table just so, etc.), and bringing in one of her workers to eat with her. And that’s how the book ends!!!!!! I literally cried and I’m still upset because it’s such a let down. Hence, the problem with getting so invested-haha!
Summing it up: I really liked The Care and Management of Lies. While parts of it broke my heart, I would definitely recommend it! It was a beautiful book-well written and captivating.
All the best, Abbey