Posted by: Lisa Hill | January 27, 2015

The Lie (2014), by Helen Dunmore

The Lie

Another book from the overflowing D-G TBR shelf!

It seems it’s not possible to read The Lie without comparing it to Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy, which I think is one of the finest attempts to render the horror of World War I in fiction.  Malcolm Forbes, who reviewed it for The Australian, thought that:

Pat Barker matches her for historical accuracy and the ability to delve deep into the human psyche, but Dunmore’s haunting, lyrical and mesmeric prose to describe carnage and loss elevates her into a different league.  (The Weekend Australian, March 1-2, 2014)

But while I thought The Lie was well written and quite interesting, I didn’t find it as compelling as Barker’s  Regeneration (the first of the trilogy) which I read more than a decade ago.  With its avoid-the-issue ending, the plot of The Lie is a bit simplistic, and the novel wears its architecture too noticeably, flickering back and forth between the returned soldier’s flashbacks to the trenches and his musings in the present.  It’s been done before, and despite the prolific quotations from other people’s poetry, it needs to be done better than this to ‘elevate her into a different league’.

Author: Helen Dunmore
Title: The Lie
Publisher: Hutchinson, London, 2014
ISBN: None (uncorrected proof copy)
Source: Won in an online competition, thanks Naomi!

Fishpond: The Lie


  1. I’m a big fan of Helen Dunmore but I haven’t come across this book yet. Might leave it until I’ve read the rest of her work. I’m also a big fan of the Regeneration trilogy (and Pat Barker in general).


    • Excellent, you love both and I respect your taste. I won’t give up on her then, maybe this one is just not as good as her others!


      • Thank you. I enjoyed The Greatcoat and Talking to the Dead.


  2. I dont tend to get on with Helen Dunmore’s novels, and the “faults” you list here suggest I wouldnt like this one either.


    • Which other ones have you read? Based on what Sharkell says, I’m going to try something else, but not another war novel.


      • “A Spell of Winter” and “The Seige”.


        • I’ll see if I can find these suggestions in the library:)


  3. I totally agree. ‘Regeneration’ was much more interesting to me than ‘The Lie’.


  4. Ah, I really want to read the Pat Barker trilogy. So many books, so little time!


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