Sometimes life really gets in your way and something you meant to do just runs away from you until you realise it’s been almost six months and you still haven’t reviewed that book you really enjoyed, and the guilt is just weighing you down and making you feel bad, so you put it off even more and even more until you never review the book and hide it in the bottom of your bookcase out of shame, even though that’s not where it should be because your books are alphabetical – right?
Oh okay. Well last year some time – a long time ago, although I can’t say exactly how long – Hot Key books were kind enough to send me a copy of The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew, an alternate-present book set in a Nazi Britain in 2013. And I read it, and I really enjoyed it, and I thought ‘I must review that on the blog, because it was really thought-provoking’ but I put it off. Once, twice, a million times, until suddenly it was March 2016 and I thought ‘I cannot put this off any longer!’
So here we are. Finally!
A startling coming-of-age novel set in a contemporary Nazi England.
Jessika Keller is a good girl: she obeys her father, does her best to impress Herr Fisher at the Bund Deutscher Mädel meetings and is set to be a world champion ice skater. Her neighbour Clementine is not so submissive. Outspoken and radical, Clem is delectably dangerous and rebellious. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend. But which can she live without?
THE BIG LIE is a thought-provoking and beautifully told story that explores ideas of loyalty, sexuality, protest and belief.
The Big Lie was a really interesting book, for me. I read a lot of dystopia, and it’s always set in the distant future, post-apocalyptic worlds where everything has changed, technology has developed and things seem so far removed from our own existence that it’s hard to ground it in reality sometimes. The Big Lie turns that around by setting the book in the present day (well, 2013), with a change to history making the difference in the world – what if the Nazis had won the war?
There were lots of things about The Big Lie that I really enjoyed – its depiction of the unthinking acceptance of most of the populace, the manifest injustice of the Nazi regime, the difficulty of growing up as a teenager in any era, under any regime, and the question of what to do when you realise something is very wrong with the way you live.
I think one of the things I like the most about alternate-reality or dystopian fiction is that a lot of the time, besides the issues of saving the world, bringing down the system, or overthrowing a corrupt government, people still have to deal with the same real-life issues that we do. Set against such a different backdrop, though, issues like sexuality become the grounds on which you stake your political rebellion.
The Big Lie was a really interesting, thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable book, with an approach to dealing with issues of sexuality and belonging that I hadn’t seen before. It was fresh and appealing, and I put off reviewing it for ages because I wanted to make sure I did it justice.
Although I thought it ended very abruptly, I can see why that decision was made, because it was in keeping with the tone of the book.
I don’t know if my emotions were slightly blunted when I read it, though, because it didn’t have the emotional heft that I was expecting.
Still. It was thought-provoking, engaging, original, and daring. Well worth a read.