Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Lie, by Helen Dunmore

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Helen Dunmore's fictional exploration of trench warfare and its effects on a young returning soldier exhibit the author's superb skills of imagination and empathy.

It is two years after the finish of the First World War and Daniel has returned to his home on the Cornish coast. He has taken over the dilapidated house of Mary Pascoe, an elderly friend of David’s mother who bequeathed it to him on her deathbed. Daniel is pretty much alone now in this eerie and haunting environment. He is also trying to fight back recurring visions of his time at the front, where his childhood friend Frederick was killed in the mud, filth and horror of the trenches. Frederick keeps appearing, almost as a ghost-like apparition. Daniel’s one real living friend is Felicia, Frederick’s sister, with whom the returned soldier hopelessly tries to piece his life back together.

The Lie is an achievement of imagination and research. Having never experienced the horror of war, Helen Dunmore does an inspired job of stepping into the shoes of Daniel and bringing his experience to life. The author, who is also a poet, brings a heightened sensibility to this portrait of a deeply damaged psyche.

The Lie, by Helen Dunmore. Published by Hutchinson Publishing. ISBN: 9780091953935 RRP:$27.99

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