Nominated for the Folio Prize and shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historial Fiction, and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.
Set during and just after the First World War, The Lie is an enthralling, heart-wrenching novel of love, memory and devastating loss by one of the UK’s most acclaimed storytellers.
Cornwall, 1920, early spring.
A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family.
Behind him lie the mud, barbed-wire entanglements and terror of the trenches. Behind him is also the most intense relationship of his life.
Daniel has survived, but the horror and passion of the past seem more real than the quiet fields around him.
He is about to step into the unknown. But will he ever be able to escape the terrible, unforeseen consequences of a lie?
In this moving and complex novel from Dunmore (Orange Prize winner for A Spell of Winter), 21-year-old Daniel Branwell has returned to his small Cornish community after World War I, haunted by the specter of the close childhood friend he lost, whose ghostly manifestations seem so real that Branwell can actually smell the vile combination of "shit and rotten flesh, cordite and choloride of lime." After the death of Mary Pascoe, a reclusive elderly neighbor who allowed Branwell to build a shelter on her land, he moves into her cottage, fulfilling one of her final wishes. The move should have given the returned veteran some stability, but nothing is that simple for him; he keeps Pascoe's death a secret, believing no one would care about her passing, and tells those who ask that she is unwell and that he's taking care of her. Flashbacks graphically depict Branwell's grim experiences during the war, even as, in the book's present, he fears that his lie cannot be sustained for the long term. Dunmore does a superb job of capturing her lead's inner torment, even as his story creeps toward a shattering conclusion.
An astute novel that neatly demonstrates the psyche of a post war survivor faced with a home that no longer has a place for him, nor understands the horror and loss of the trenches.