By July 1914, the ties between Kezia Marchant and Thea Brissenden, friends since girlhood, have become strained--by Thea's passionate embrace of women's suffrage, and by the imminent marriage of Kezia to Thea's brother, Tom, who runs the family farm. When Kezia and Tom wed, just a month before Britain declares war on Germany. Thea's gift to Kezia is a book on household management -- a veiled criticism of the bride's prosaic life to come. Yet when Tom enlists to fight for his country and Thea is drawn reluctantly onto the battlefield, the farm becomes Kezia's responsibility. Each woman must find a way to endure the ensuing cataclysm and turmoil. But will well-intended lies and self-deception be of use when they come face to face with the enemy?
I very much enjoy Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs novels, so I was excited to review her standalone The Care and Management of Lies which is set during WWI.
At the heart, we have a story about friendships and about love. Thea Brissenden grew up as a farmer's daughter and was a fellow scholarship student with Kezia Marchant. Kezia's family though equally unable to cover the school fees was a little more sophisticated/worldly and as a parson's daughter Kezia was better travelled, more introspective, and generally a kinder person. Keiza and Thea's younger brother Tom fall in love and marry. Instead of bringing the three of them closer together Thea pulls away, feels excluded, resents Kezia's closeness and good fortune.
Kezia's good natured and kind enough to ignore the petty rivalries and jealousies that rule Thea. Instead, Kezia, continues to try to hold the family together even as Tom enlists and Thea joins an ambulance brigade. Kezia, the town girl, is left to run the family farm which she does with her unique blend of spirit, optimism, and bravery.
The Care and Management of Lies does cover issues of class in a subtle way. It's clear that Captain Hawkes, the large landowner and neighbor of Tom Brissenden, experienced the war very differently from the enlisted men. We read about the dangers, the smells, the rats in the trenches. We also feel the camaraderie and closeness of the men as they fight together.
Kezia tries to keep her husband's spirits up with loving letters to the front where she describes unusual meals that she prepares for him. These letters bring Tom hope and love - and his fellow soldiers ask him to share the descriptions of his wife's dinners. Kezia brings comfort and hope to the men as well as the bitter envy of senior officers. In the end, it's envy and spite that are the real enemies here, not the Germans. The heroes of the piece are Kezia and Tom.
The Care and Management of Lies differs from the Maisie Dobbs novels in a number of ways: (1) it's a novel about love and WWi and not a detective mystery novel. This novel starts a bit slower, so you have to be patient; (2) though class issues are present in The Care and Management of Lies, class doesn't play as big a role; and (3) while Maisie is very likable, I found myself even more attached to Kezia.
About the Author:
Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels featuring Maisie Dobbs, a former World War I nurse turned investigator. Originally from the United Kingdom, Winspear now lives in California.