Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew

The Big Lie
by Julie Mayhew
Date of Publication: August 27, 2015
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Buy It: Amazon / TBD
Source: NetGalley

"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.

My Review:
  1. A big lie (German: Große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. Theexpression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so "colossal" that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."

   Set in an alternative history in Britain 2013 where the Nazis won WWII. It is about rebellion, divided loyalty and love. A novel in which you must also question the narrator's trustworthiness. Jessika is a good girl. One of the best students at her school and at ice skating. She believes the motto that together you are strong. She strives to be a part of the community and do as she is told. To believe what she is told by her father and authority. Her father is a respected man and her mother is a Hausfrau. However, her neighbors don't seem to completely blend in with the normal respected people, like her parents. Her best friend Clementine is their neighbors' daughter whom Jessika adores. Jessika is at a constant battle between thinking like she was forced to and thinking on her own with her own set of morals and values. In her narration, Jessika is constantly going back and forth on what she is believing which alters the telling of her story. Depending on who she is feeling loyalty towards she might omit a certain piece of information. She is intelligent, but believes she is innocent and wants to bury feelings she has that are outside of the Nazi norm. This is what brings the reading experience to a deeper psychological level. It's not about simply telling the story from an objective view. It makes you start questioning the other stories you've read, even historical accounts, on if they are objective, that they haven't left out anything, and if what you are being told is the truth or a lie. 
   In the beginning you are dropped into the story after an event has happened. You don't know what it is and Jessika is already omitting certain facts from the reader. The first part of the book is a build-up to this event that happened, taking you a year or so before it. How it is written is incredibly engaging. You are given information about people only when they are recollected in the Part 1 so you are constantly putting them in context of what is going on in the present. There aren't big explanations about things because there isn't a need to explain or question anything in Jessika's world. The reader is to put things together and understand the subtleties in dialogue and manner themselves. I appreciated this. It's a novel that makes you think about events in our present world. The author wants you to. The characters seem to be only as dynamic as Jessika makes them. This might also be in relation to people conforming to the norm and not having much individuality. (Except for a few other characters.) The novel didn't have any negative aspects for me. However, the subject matter may be too much for some people.     

Lasting Impression:

    I really appreciate it when books pay attention to detail. An example on the constant references of how everyday life would be different is when Jessika goes to the movies, "..another war movie where we pummel the Americans and the guy gets the girl..." I loved reading those differences in perspective and what the norm is. You can tell there was extensive research involved to write this novel: the German sayings, the references to real magazines, social groups, education, and domestic life for women. It can be hard to read due to the length at which people were controlled and how it was done. The writing and plot are great. I looked up at one point and realized I had been reading for 5 hours straight. So I recommend this novel! What is scary is while reading it you know it is an alternative history, however, some of these beliefs exist in our present world. This is the second book from Hot Key Books that I've read and both were beyond my expectations. I recommend reading the author's notes after as well.
   Tidbit: The girl on the cover is from the  October 1936 issue of Das Deutsche Madel and the cover designer spray-painted.  

Julie Mayhew posted a collage of images for inspiration here: 

AND there is a Tumblr page for the novel as well!
Go check it out!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Inspiration: Books I Want to Read Now:

   The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
   HHhH by Laurent Binet
   This Book is Gay by James Dawson   
   The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (reread)
About Julie Mayhew:

   Julie’s debut novel, Red Ink, was published by Hot Key Books in 2013. It was nominated for the 2014 CILIP Carnegie Medal and short-listed for the 2014 Branford Boase Award. She originally trained as a journalist, then as an actress, and started writing because she wanted there to be more brilliant roles for girls. Her plays have been performed in London and Edinburgh and on BBC Radio 4. Julie is founder of and host of short story cabaret The Berko Speakeasy. And she is also quite good at ice skating. @juliemayhew


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