ARC Review: The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew


The Big Lie
Series: None
Author: Julie Mayhew
Published August 27th 2015 by Hot Key Books

Goodreads Synopsis
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.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way impacted on my view.

The Big Lie is a book that immediately intrigued me when I heard about it. The synopsis automatically drew me in - imagine what England would be like if The Battle of Britain failed, and the Nazi's won World War Two. The War Years is an era of history that I love, and one I want to read more about in YA fiction. To top it all off, the main character, Jess, is struggling with her sexuality and her feelings towards other girls - a big no no in the Greater German Reich. When Jess starts to question everything she knows, and her position in the Nazi led country, it becomes really dangerous for her.

Unfortunately, this book was one that sort of fell a bit flat for me. It had a lot of promise to begin with, but once the main plot line finished - only half way in - it became seriously choppy. The Zwei and Drei sections of the book were what I'd describe as 'blah' - I really just skim read through them, as it was holding my attention. In Zwei particularly, each chapter jumped between events, and though one of these events was seriously dramatic, the jumpy nature of it dulled the action.

What brought up my rating for the story was the world in which it was set. The Nazi propaganda was so ingrained in the characters, that they were still sort of living in the 1940s. Only certain tv channel were allowed, and computers were used solely by the chief officials. Women were expected to go through school, but then be good wives and mothers - jobs were not allowed, unless they were deemed unsuitable for marriage. And then, the really nitty gritty Nazi propaganda came into force.
 - Winston Churchill - one of the greatest prime ministers Britain has ever had - is described in a similar way to how we'd describe Hitler: 'He was a charming monster. He took England's schoolboys, sent them off on his renegade schemes and brought their terrible early deaths.' (page 69). He was ridiculous, and committed 'so many horrors'. Eventually the British people got so sick of him, that they welcomed in the Germans after The Battle of Britain failed. 
 - The Holocaust is never mentioned - rather, the Jews and other 'undesirables' were sent to America.
 - If there are any abnormalities in your family, girls are basically forced to undergo hysterectomies, to ensure the strength of German blood.
 - Finally, the Greater German Reich, which I think is basically the majority of Europe and Britain, is wholly segregated from the rest of the world. Places like America, Japan, Russia, Canada, etc. are alien entities to Jess, and when an American pop star visits, carrying mobiles, etc., it's a entirely new experience.

I wish there was more of Clementine and her family in this story. Their connections to the outside world and revolutionary spirit really got to me, and I wanted more of this. I actually wanted Jess to be stronger than she was - she was really quite weak, and under the thumb of her father. She believed anything he said, and when she was forced to undergo hormone therapy (I think to stop her 'urges'), she didn't question it. Jess really wasn't the best narrator for this; Clementine would have done a much better job, in my eyes.

I know loads of people have truly loved this book, but, unfortunately, I did not. The premise of it was perfect, and I liked that it was diverse - though her sexuality wasn't really developed. I know many people would still enjoy this book, but it's only saving grace for me was the propaganda side, and that was underdeveloped.

Dates Read:
August 28-30, 2015

3 Stars

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