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The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War
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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 1, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Care and Management of Lies is the story of the lives of a few people and how those lives were forever changed by the first World War.
Kezia and Thea have been best friends for ages when Kezia marries Thea's younger brother Tom. Thea believes that Kezia is going to have a difficult time being the wife of a farmer. Meanwhile, Thea is busy with the suffragette movement until the beginning of the war throws her in a more dangerous direction.
As the British enter the war, Tom feels that he must enlist, since so many of the men and boys that work on his farm are going. Thea is compelled to volunteer as an ambulance driver in order to keep from being arrested for her war protesting activities. Kezia is left to keep the farm running, with an old man and a lame boy to help her with the work.
I really liked this book and I like that Kezia, a woman who had never had to cook or clean in her life, so successfully keeps the farm running and makes everyone around her feel loved and cared for. The characters in this novel have been meticulously created and are not just one-dimensional stereotypes.
I have read all of the Maisie Dobbs novels by the same author and I liked this book much better. Read it!
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
When I first learned that this was not the latest book in Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series, I did feel a moment of disappointment. I've grown to love Maisie, and I look forward to seeing how her life changes; however, this book-- written to coincide with the centenary of World War I-- is about one of my favorite time periods, and I wasn't about to ignore it. I'm glad I didn't.

This elegiac and slow-moving narrative was inspired by a book Winspear found in a London book stall. The battered book on household management was inscribed to a bride on the occasion of her wedding in July 1914, and Winspear couldn't help but wonder about the changes that young woman's life underwent in the succeeding years. In The Care and Management of Lies, we see the hardworking, honorable and compassionate Tom enlisting after several of his farm workers do. (The war was going to be over by Christmas after all.) Kezia, a vicar's daughter totally unused to the workings of a prosperous farm, is left to carry on with the help of a couple of the old and disabled and a variety of workers brought in to make do. Thea reluctantly finds herself learning how to repair ambulances and driving them back and forth to the front lines. Each, in his or her own way, depends on letters and care packages from the others to help them cope with the seemingly overwhelming difficulties and horrors of what they must do.

Kezia, the only one of the three left behind, finds herself the primary caregiver to the other two. Her letters to Tom become eagerly awaited items by Tom's entire outfit. In them, she describes in detail the meals she has lovingly prepared for her husband, and while Tom reads them aloud to his mates, each one is comforted by the memories these words from home evoke. Kezia sends care packages containing food and small items that Tom and Thea need, and her words bring love and respite. None of the three tell the truth of what they are facing. All three want to shield the others with loving lies and omissions.

As I said at the beginning, this book is slow moving, and it's not about Maisie, but there's gold to be found in the pages. If you love food, you're going to love Kezia's descriptions of the meals she prepares-- they can make your mouth water. There's quite a bit about those meals, but I didn't find it repetitive. Kezia uses those descriptions to care for those she loves in the only way she can, and as you read about her life on the farm, it's easy to see that, in the writing of them, she's taking herself away from reality for a while, too.

Winspear brings the reality of war in the trenches and living with men from all levels of society to life in all its smells, pettiness, filth, horror, and heroism. The relationships between Tom and the other soldiers show so much of the human condition. By book's end I realized that I had just read about the trial by fire of a generation who would go on to "keep calm and carry on" twenty years down the road. This is a lyrical and sobering book indeed.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The settings: Kent, the breadbasket of England; and Belgium during the Great War, WWI. The characters: Kezia, a clergyman's daughter; her best friend Dorrit, also known as Thea, a schoolteacher; Tom, Thea's brother, a farmer; and a lesser character, Edmund Hawkes, the local landowner. The conflict: surviving the Great War in body and in spirit. The challenge: balancing humanity and love with separation, hunger of all kinds, and the horrors of war.

If you are a fan of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs detective series, you may be a bit disappointed, as I was, in The Care and Management of Lives. Sometimes the characters are one-dimensional or put in place to illustrate an important historical point, rather than to come alive in the reader's mind and heart as they do in the best Maisie books. The contrasts between rich and poor, home front and war zone, domestic women and activists, can seem forced and make the story a bit disjointed. Last, a reader really has to believe care about food and see it as a metaphor for love to be able to tolerate the constant references to meals, real and imaginary, in the novel. I found it interesting and creative in the beginning and tedious at the end.

Despite those drawbacks, the book reveals the lives, challenges, and courage of the English people during a terrible time in their history. As with the Maisie books, Winspear's historical detail and love and admiration for the people who endured this terrible "war to end all wars" grounds the book and makes this important world-changing event come alive in the day-to-day world of ordinary people. Her treatment of motivations: for joining the army, for fighting for women's rights and pacifism, and for relating to the enemy, is nuanced and humane. If you think you can ignore my reservations, I believe you will find it worth a read.

Also recommended: Skylarks Above No Man's Land, an essay on the author's website.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 12, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love the Maisie Dobbs books so was very interested to read this. It is a bit different but also really worth reading. It gives a good picture of life at the time of the first World War, especially as it regards the lives of women in towns and in the countryside. The main character Kezia is a town girl, a teacher, who marries a farmer. When her husband goes off to war, she and many other women have to learn skills until then though to be for men. There is a lot of sadness and a lot of description, some of it long. The reader gets a good feel for that era and the way of life and concerns of the people then. Men, women and teens might enjoy it. School libraries would also be a good place for copies.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Jacqueline Winspear's new stand alone novel, THE CARE AND MANAGEMENT OF LIES follows the lives of three people during WWI. Thea and Tom Brissenden are brother and sister. Kezia Marchant, a city girl, meets Thea at boarding school. Thea takes Kezia home to their family farm and eventually Kezia and Tom are married.
The advent of WWI changes the lives of everyone in Britain as the fighting in Europe consumes both young and old in the trenches of France.
Thea flees the farm for London and after a near brush with jail during a suffrage campaign joins her brother on the battle field leaving Kezia to maintain the farm. Each lives a life they never imagined nor expected to comprehend. To shield the others a well constructed tissue of lies evolves through their letters.
A fine balance of point-of-view among the characters keeps the story moving and the read turning the pages. It also leaves said reader longing for another story about survivors.
CARE AND MANAGEMENT OF LIES is an excellent offering from a master story teller.
Nash Black, author of Cards of Death.
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56 of 72 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 1, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I found this story very, very dull. I could not get into, nor grow to care for the characters. It pontificates, telling us the same thing over and over, in just different words. She loves Tom. She loves Tom. She has never cooked before, never worked a farm. This person's great grandfather had a gambling problem. Thea is growing away from Kezia.

I get it; I do. I got it the first time it was mentioned.

What I don't get is all the cooking and how in the world it ties into the war. I grew terribly bored with Kezia's cooking and what ingredients she was using and how long she cooked the fish.

I feel like something was there but I could not see it. I just know that halfway through the book, I declared, "Let's get on with it already!!! I don't care what you make for his high tea or dinner!"

Just wasn't for me. I will say, however, I was intrigued with how everyone in different parts of the country reacted to the idea of war. There's the country folk who think it won't touch them, the pacifists and their protests, the young men who sign up thinking it's an adventure, and the poor who just want three square meals a day.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This story opens on the eve of Kezia Marchant's wedding to the brother of her best friend, Thea Brissenden. Thea and Kezia are not as close as they once were, with Kezia choosing to live a "quiet" country life helping her new husband to run the family farm, and Thea living as a single woman in London and supporting the suffrage movement. But issues like strained friendships and women's rights are eclipsed that summer of 1914 as Britain declares war on Germany.

Kezia's days as a newlywed are cut short as her husband, Tom, goes off to war and Thea struggles with her role as a supporter of the anti-war movement. Both women lean on each other once again as the war turns their lives, as well as their country, upside down.

I was really excited by the premise of this book - a snapshot of the early days of WWI as seen through the eyes of two young, middle-class English women. While there were parts of the story that I found interesting, overall this just wasn't a compelling read to me and I struggled to finish it. While the writing is without doubt more than competent - and the author clearly did her homework - the characters seemed rather wooden and one-dimensional to me and I never became invested in them.

Kezia spends her days cooking and navel-gazing. I know, I know - the cooking is a way to express her love for Tom and represents the "new life" she is embarking on, but after about the third recipe I had had enough. "I better cook this kidney before it goes "off". I think I'll chop some apples to go with it, then put a sprig of grass on top. Now I'll make my list of ingredients and then I'll go to the store." Good grief, did I ever find those passages boring! Kezia ruminates constantly about "losing herself" by becoming Tom's wife, and her circuitous introspection was just tedious. Tom thinks about how lucky he is to have Kezia, everyone around Tom thinks how lucky he is to be married to her...she just comes across as a bit too perfect. Tom himself is just a vanilla "good guy", not much there to make him particularly interesting, and Thea was too prickly and sanctimonious to be very likeable.

On the plus side, the bits and pieces about how the working people, both in the countryside and in the city, were impacted by the war were very interesting. Many of the young men enlisted eagerly, both out of naiveté (they thought they'd beat the Germans in no time) and also because they'd be fed. Poverty was a way of life for a huge segment of the country. The author goes into a fair amount of detail about this and I found it the most intriguing part of the story.

In the end my feelings are mixed on this one. There are some interesting elements but that disconnect I felt towards the characters overwhelmed any positives for me. I found myself putting this book down pretty often and not being in much of a hurry to get back to it. Three stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
For me, the tone of this book was set within the first 50 pages or so: the crucial period in which any author needs to grab a reader's attention and ensure that they're eager to keep reading; that they have begun to view this fictional world through the eyes of the characters who inhabit it and not through the author's eyes. Jacqueline Winspear never managed to pull off that feat -- indeed, by the time I had finished the first 100 pages I had largely given up on it happening it all -- and it colored my entire experience with the plot and characters.

It all boils down to that old chestnut: the writer's mantra to show your readers what's happening, not to tell them. Early in the novel, we are told over and over again, what characters think or believe; we are provided, instructively, with all kinds of background information. Thea and Kezia, the two young women whose close friendship from schooldays will be tested by Kezia'a marriage to Thea's brother (which Thea sees as an abdication of sorts from what is possible for women in the early years of the 20th century) and more dramatically by the looming conflict of World War I, are the first two characters we meet. But we hear little about them in their own words or actions. Instead, we get long paragraphs such as the following: "Thea thought Kezia saw the land through rose-colored glasses, never having paid-attention to the running of the farm. For a farmer's wife there was only toil from well before the first light of dawn, until the wick was turned down at night -- even with help from Ada Beeney, the girl who came in from the village to light the fires, scrub the floors, and fetch and carry. Kezia was an intelligent, educated woman; Thea knew that, and cherished the well of conversation that had been a hallmark of their friendship. But Kezia was also a dreamer. Once, that ethereal quality had enchanted Thea -- she had never met anyone like Kezia. Now her friend's naivete festered under her skin." In that segment, Winspear has TOLD the reader a lot about Kezia through Thea's eyes -- but why not show us? What was so great about the conversation? In what was is she dreamy? Does Thea try to bring her down to earth? Does she brood in silence about this? If so, why? By opting to tell instead of show, Winspear relinquishes the opportunity to make her characters vivid personalities instead of just representative of the characteristics she has determined that they'll have. That in turn makes me, as a reader, care a lot less about them, the predicaments in which they find themselves, and the book as a whole.

I've read a lot of novels set in World War I, ever since the days in which I worked as a tour guide at World War I battlefield as a teenager. From popular novels by the likes of Philip Rock and Sarah Harrison, to more literary fare by Pat Barker and Thomas Keneally; from works written by those who fought in the trenches or who were contemporaries of those who did (Edith Bagnold, Vera Brittain, Siegfried Sassoon, etc.) to what is being published today, on Sarajevo's centenary. While this is well-written enough to stand with the best of the popular fiction, the emphasis on telling over showing overshadowed, for me, the interesting ideas at the heart of the novel. Yes, the concept of the ways in which people must lie to each other in order to simply carry on from day to day was a fascinating one. But it wasn't developed in such a way that it made for a fascinating novel, for me. There are vignettes and moments that work, but that simply reminded me that perhaps this novel really does reflect the reality of wartime: a lot of tedium interspersed with moments of drama and excitement.

Alas, for me, the tedium won out. I plodded my way across the finish line with relief. Plenty of reviewers have commented on the basic elements of the plot, so I have confined my comments here primarily to why I'm giving this book only 2.5 stars (rounded up to 3 stars, because that's what the plot's premise, the writing and those isolated moments where I could connect with the story suggest it's worth, rather than two stars.) Even the conclusion didn't arouse more than a muted and very fleeting sense of sadness in me, before I closed the book and moved on to something more engaging.

Suggestions for books where I really cared about the characters and where the writing wasn't so ponderous and engaged in telling me how I should view what is going on that it distanced me from the entire novel? Besides Pat Barker's iconic "Regeneration" trilogy, there is Keneally's The Daughters of Mars: A Novel and, in popular fiction territory, the trilogy that has been republished and begins with The Passing Bells: A Novel (Greville Family) (great for Downton Abbey fans, too), and then Sarah Harrison's sweeping The Flowers of the Field. No, none of them specifically involve farming, housekeeping, etc., but all of them involve some aspect of the "Home Front" as well as the trenches, and all are memorable and completely engrossing, in very different ways. This one wasn't.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Care And Management Of Lies
By
Jacqueline Winspear

Where it all takes place...

Much of this book takes place in and around London, a family farm outside of London and the battlefields of the First World War...in particular...France.

When much of it happens...

Most of this story takes place just a few months before England enters the war. The intense parts of this book occur on the battlefields and back at the family farm while the war is actually happening.

What it's all about...

Thea is best friends with Kezia...they go to school together and become teachers together. Along the way Kezia falls in love with Tom...Thea's brother...and marries him and becomes a farmer's wife. Thea becomes involved with suffragettes and becomes political and just a bit disdainful of Kezia. Enter World War I and all of its horrors. Tom leaves, Thea leaves, even Kezia's father leaves for war. Kezia deals with the farm and it's workers. Tom...gentle sweet Tom...not only has war to live through but also an evil horrible Sergeant Knowles...who literally hates him for his goodness. Kezia and Tom's next door neighbor is also Tom's commander but he still can't do much to stop Sergeant Knowles from persecuting Tom.

Which characters had the most impact on me...

Kezia was my most impactful character. She was so sweet and true and brave. Every small or large thing that she did was laced with elegance and beauty. She started with always using her best napkins at tea to wearing Tom's trousers to milk cows while Tom was at war. She literally saved the farm during this period.

What did I love the most...

Oh my...I loved Kezia and Tom's relationship. I loved their gentle ways with each other. I loved the letters they wrote to each other during this war.

Whom did I love the least...

This is easy...Sergeant Knowles. And actually...I was not a huge fan of Thea, either. She was too disdainful of Kezia...she felt too superior for absolutely no reason.

Why I wanted to read it...

I love this author's Maisie Dobbs books and wanted to read this stand alone new one.

What made me love it...

This author made me love it. This book grabbed me from the start and I literally loved every word, every scene, every character...well...almost every character.

Why you should read it, too...

It is an amazing book about the lives of people who were living through a horrible war. It will touch your soul. I could not believe the beautiful ending of this book. I laughed...I cried...I loved every word.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 9, 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )Verified Purchase
This is a book that Winspear has said she felt compelled to write and while interesting, it certainly isn't the compelling read that any of her Maisie Dobbs series are. The book centers around the events in Britain leading up to the British entry into World War 1. Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden are best friends at their boarding school where they are both scholarship students not the usual rich girls who populate Camden school. Thea brings Kezia home to the farm where she falls in love with Tom and agrees to marry him even though she knows nothing of how to be a farm wife. Thea,upon graduation, takes a job as a city school teacher and becomes involved in the increasingly violent Suffragette protests and then the Pacifist movement.
Kezia, the daughter of an Anglican Priest, has no domestic skills but learns to cook to please Tom and the other farm workers she must feed. When Tom joins other men of their village in enlisting she takes over the farm, and her letters to Tom revolve around imaginative and imaginary meals she is making for him. As food is a primary preoccupation with troops, this is her way of showing her husband love. A subplot is that of the power that the unit's sergeant has over Tom and his inability to fight back.
I think that Winspear's portrait of the life on a small Kentish farm and life in the trenches of France is interesting but not riveting. The time period is that of the Maisie series but the book doesn't move along as her other ones do. I think of this book as a snapshot of life at that time hence the 3 stars. Hopefully there is another Maisie or something similar in the works for those of us who want more action and mystery.
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