The Big Lie – Julie Mayhew


The Big Lie

6/10. It’s a clever idea and the title font suits, but it grates against the author  font. And let’s play spot the strapline…

“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?”

I spotted The Big Lie as a staff pick in Foyles and couldn’t resist picking it up after reading the blurb. A YA, dystopian post-WW2 novel: brilliant. And the plot is truly original; set in Nazi England, 2014, after Germany won the Second World War. Open scene…

Jessika Keller is the perfect daughter of the Reich. Obedient, talented and good at executing instructions, even if she doesn’t make sense of them, Jessika takes pride in her innate goodness. Though not every aspect of her life is exemplary; her next-door neighbour and best-friend-in-the-world Clementine (though Clementine would point out that there could be better friends elsewhere) is an intuitive, switched-on girl. Little does Jessika know that her best friend is harbouring resentment, rebellion, and the need for truth – until at an event held to demonstrate Britain’s greatness, when Clementine hosts a public protest and Jessika intuitively steps in to protect her – on TV, broadcast to the world.

After the event, Jessika is forced to lie to protect her clean reputation – no, she’s not a traitor, no, she doesn’t agree with Clementine’s actions, and yes, she’s still a good girl, thank you very much. But a seed of rebellion has been planted in her heart too, and she can’t quite quash it…

The plot line of The Big Lie is a genius idea, and Mayhew should be applauded for it, but the execution wasn’t quite to my taste. The reviews show that most people loved it, and of course every book is subjective, so I’m chalking this one down to personal preference/cups of tea. Others may find the vagueness intriguing, but to me this story just doesn’t scratch beneath the surface. A shame – but an enjoyable read nonetheless, with some truly beautiful and chilling moments in it, and a talented, redeeming last chapter, including a poignant, accessible truth that everyone can take something from:

“I am Good Jessika and Bad. All of it is in me. But I am whole. And I am here.”