A Novel of the Great War

The Care and Management of Lies:  A Novel of the Great War

By Jacqueline Winspear

Published 2014

Read July 2018

I read this while waiting for my turn for the library’s copy of Winspear’s newest Massie Dobbs novel.  This is the only book in her canon that isn’t a Massie Dobbs novel but it satisfies similarly.  Winspear writes engaging historical fiction providing interesting characters, many details of life in that time, and a story in which the characters struggle with issues confronting people in that time.   The Massie Dobbs novels start with Massie post-WWI although the impact of WWI or WWII is usually felt by both Massie and other characters in each book.  In this novel Winspear dives directly into the lives of people dealing with the early onset of the “Great War”, in particular the pressure felt by all to either enlist or “do something” for the war effort and the resulting consequences.

Taking leave of Massie Dobbs, Winspear was able to create 4 new characters of whom we learn about their thoughts, dreams, concerns, and fears:  Thea and Tom Brissenden, siblings who have known Kezia Marchant since Kezia and Thea (then Dorritt) were scholarship classmates at a girl’s boarding prep school, well before Tom and Kezia marry, and Edmund Hawkes, current generation owner of an estate from which Tom’s father obtained their farm through a wager with Edmund’s father.   Each of these characters is simultaneously strong and self-doubting.   Kezia and Tom write regularly to each other once Tom enlists and take care in their letters to manage some lies of incomplete truths to enable their beloved to carry on through the trials they are facing.  Winspear was unburdened from resolving a mystery that Massie and her team must solve so she was free to bring her story to an appropriate close that is true to each character and the time in which they lived.

I advocate for Winspear to continue writing non-Massie Dobbs books so we can experience other aspects of modern English history through her well-constructed and well-rounded characters.  I appreciate that Winspear is productive but not overly prolific—her production pace allows her to provide us rich details and context about the historical backdrop for her interesting stories and avoid being formulaic.  And of course I look forward to more works about Massie Dobbs…

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