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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Review: The Big Lie

It's modern-day England. Hitler and the Germans won the war, so England is part of the Greater German Reich. Jessika Keller is a good girl, a model citizen. She belongs to a high-ranking family, she's a champion ice skater, she dutifully embraces all that the Bund Deutscher M├Ądel (the League of German Girls) teaches her. She knows how lucky she is to live in the greatest country in the world.

Clementine Hart is Jessika's neighbour. Her family is not so high-ranking. She can't accept that it's 'necessary' for people to be hanged publicly for wrongdoing. She desperately wants to know more about the world 'out there', the world they're banned from learning about. If she and her parents continue to be outspoken, they'll be noticed by the authorities. Clementine might be sterilised — after all, bad elements can't be allowed to breed — the family might even 'vanish'.

Clementine is also Jessika's best friend. Jessika loves her fiercely, confusingly. How can Jessika be true to her beliefs, her family, her country, but also true to her feelings and her friend?

I loved the premise on which this book was built. England's alternative history has been brilliantly imagined. It's the perfect world in which to explore notions of loyalty and duty, protest and rebellion, propaganda and reality, love and sexuality.

Red Ink, Julie Mayhew's previous book — and her first — was highly acclaimed. I can see why. Her writing is assured, her characters are well developed, and she has a strong original voice that I found very engaging. In a section at the back of The Big Lie, she explains her inspiration for the story and gives it some historical context. There's also an excellent list of resources for anyone interested in finding out more about Nazi Germany and World War II.

Title: The Big Lie
Author: Julie Mayhew
Publisher: Hot Key Books, $16.95 RRP
Publication Date: September 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781471404702
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Fiction

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