Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Care and Management of Lies by Jaqueline Winspear

And for today's second post I'm a part of the TLC book tour for Jacqueline Winspear's upcoming stand alone, The Care and Management of Lies.

Summer of 1914 should be a happy time for Kezia Marchant - soon to be Brissenden. After all, she's to be married soon to a man she loves wholly. But across the ocean the threat of war becomes stronger and stronger with each day. 

Back on Marshals Farm this threat seems so distant and impossible that much of the village acts as if it almost doesn't exist. That is until some of their own begin to return in body bags. Tom Brissenden has no illusions about war and daily battles between his responsibilities at home and his responsibilities to his country. In the end he voluntarily signs on, leaving his new wife to take the helm at the farm. 

In London, Thea Brissenden attempts to go on in her life as usual. She's conflicted about the new marriage between her longtime friend and her brother, certain that Kezia is unsuited for her new role as a farmer's wife. And for her, the war is an opportunity to take up figurative arms against the conflict. Her new role as a pacifist soon lands her in hot water and her only option is to join the war effort to escape. But Thea is unprepared for the realities this was will bring. 

Sooooo I had a little trouble getting into this book. Don't worry, it's not a bad review and I didn't dislike it at all but I had some real trouble getting started. Part of it was simply timing - this was a crazy week and every time I sat down to read I got distracted in by one thing or another. Which is kind of sad now that I've finished. The first pages really set the scene and the tone for the whole book! If I could do it all over again I'd just lock myself in a quiet place (the bathtub) and set aside a big chunk of evening to get to it. And I should have done that to begin with but oh, well.

When we first meet Kezia and Dorothy/Dorrit/Thea it's just days til Kezia's looming nuptials. She and Thea have been friends since their schooldays so one would think they'd both be happy as can be that the upcoming wedding will officially make them sisters. And yet, Kezia's engagement to Thea's brother doesn't necessarily please Thea.

Thea and Kezia both worked hard for their education and it's understandable that Thea feels a bit like Kezia is throwing it away to become the wife of a farmer. Sadly Kezia and Tom's fondness for one another don't seem to temper Thea's disappointment in her friend's life choices. And while Thea is disappointed in Kezia, Kezia also feels a disconnect in their longtime friendship, recognizing that Thea is also making choices that separate the two. Thea is an ardent suffragette and, with the threat of war on the horizon, has also joined a group of pacifists in protesting the country's response to goings on in Europe (what soon becomes WWI).

War is the catalyst that each character needs to really begin to change and grow (though I think Kezia was well on her way before that). (Of the two, Kezia is definitely the one I felt I connected most with.) Between the two of them, Winspear I think truly captures the essence of what it must have been like to be a young woman during war time. The balance between their personal wants and needs and becoming housewives and homemakers. How they reacted to the war and the challenges they faced when the bulk of the men in their communities went to battle.

And it's not just the women that Winspear addresses. It's the men as well. Tom is stationed in the trenches and has become an example (in a bad way) for all the other soldiers. But with Kezia back home, working diligently to ensure that each letter to her husband is a distraction she catches the attention of another man as well. Edmund Hawkes is also stationed at the trenches and as Captain one of his tasks is to read through the soldiers' correspondence for censoring. He too looks forward to each and every letter from Kezia, longing for something more.

These days there are many titles set around WWI, enough for every kind of reader I think. For me, Winspear tackles the subject with grace while never letting the reader forget how awful it was.The effect on everyone involved on the front and at home, soldiers, nurses, wives, workers... no one was immune to the tragedies of this war. Everyone had a different way of surviving - whether it be (as the case is here) Kezia's white lies about life at home meant to life the spirits of her husband or Thea's self-serving but still admirable joining up and serving at the front herself. Hawkes and his surreptitious longing for Kezia thanks to her letters. And of course Tom, who - like many - would never burden their families with the realities of the front.

Anyway, if you couldn't tell, I do heartily recommend The Care and Management of Lies to any fan of historical fiction. Longtime Maisie Dobbs fans might be disappointed that the heroine is not present here, but I assure you you'll quickly become captivated by this new story (and I'm sure there'll be more Maisie to come as well).

Rating: 4.5/5

(The Care and Management of Lies is officially due out July 1.)

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Jacqueline Winspear and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook.


April @ My Shelf Confessions said...

I like historical fiction but it's come and go for me.. I'm quite picky about it. For some reason I haven't been able to find a WWI book I really enjoyed (on the top of my head at least) usually I find the WWII ones fascinating and great reads that resonate with me - and Victorian era stuff (which fits in with my mysteries a lot of times.) :)

Glad you liked this one, this is the first time hearing about this author! It sounds like she did a great job portraying how people would really react in the situation presented to them.

Becky LeJeune said...

I did really like this one, April. I have read some great WWI books - Phillip Rock's Passing Bells trilogy is fantastic and I highly recommend it.

The best, though, is ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. It is brutal and completely unforgettable.

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I have read several of the Maisie Dobbs books and tend to enjoy WWI-era books so this one is going on my TBR list.

Thanks for being on the tour!