Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Lie by Helen Dunmore

Have just finished reading The Lie by Helen Dunmore.

The combination of a renowned author (Helen Dunmore is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature) writing on the theme of the First World War seemed irresistible.

Actually Helen Dunmore is writing about the aftermath of the war, and the way soldiers were treated when they returned home.  The narrator is a young ex-soldier who goes back to the rural community he was born into and finding that he does not fit in.  His close friend (heavy hints that that were more than close friends, although on a platonic level) had died in horrific circumstances in No Man's Land, and appears to him as a ghost/tangible memory.

Lots of ideas are explored in the novel:  the persistent nature of grief; the experience of people living on the margins (literally on the margin in this case, scraping a living from a tiny patch of land); the moral right of same sex partners to inherit money and position; the tension between doing what is right (in terms of a dying woman's last wishes) and doing what the law obliges; the intolerance of small communities; the impossibility of bringing the past back to life.

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