I’m so pleased I found this book which I loved and enjoyed reading so much. What Dickens did for the 19th century, Amanda Craig has done for the 21st. I love comparing contemporary authors with classical and immediately felt the connection between Amanda’s writing and Charles Dickens. I’d never read anything by Amanda before and, I’m hanging my head in shame, had never heard of her (sorry, I blame this for having had to study classical literature for so long) so I didn’t have a clue that she’s been compared to Dickens by many people.
This book can be described as a social commentary on contemporary British life which nowadays, for so many people of all classes, consists of redundancies, zero hour contracts, racism, sexism, the effects of immigration on rural communities. The list goes on. This novel had me hooked from the beginning until the end. Author Amanda Craig has created a satisfying read, characters we can relate to plus a superb plot. It’s a clever book and I enjoyed reading each and every page.
This is a book that has so many attractions that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Well, let’s start with the main characters. In the middle of the credit crunch, Lottie Bredin and her husband Quentin who both have successful careers, lose their jobs. Lottie is an architect and is proud of her vocation. She’s armed to the hilt with academic qualifications which are still not enough to save her from losing her job. Quentin is made redundant from his successful career as a journalist – he’s known for his sharp wit. He seemed to me to be an amalgam of all those opinionated journalists that we know and love (or hate). Lottie and Quentin have followed all the rules that society lays down in order to be considered a ‘success’. Their professional London careers have provided them with all the cultural delights that the capital provides for the well heeled. In particular they are proud of their beautiful home that has increased in value during the good years. They are, in effect, paper millionaires. The thing is, they now can’t afford the upkeep of the house. Furthermore, having decided to divorce, they now realise they can’t even afford to do that.
Quentin is a philanderer – I know, an old fashioned word but one that suits him well. You wonder as you learn about him how Lottie put up with his infidelity for so long. Quentin’s excuse is that their sex life went downhill during and after Lottie’s pregnancies (they have two daughters). After his latest infidelity, Lottie finally decides she’s had enough and they decide to divorce. The problem is: they can’t afford to divorce. They decide the only way they can raise money is to rent out their London house and move to Devon. We learn that this is where Quentin was brought up and where his parents, Hugh and Naomi, still live. As a young man he couldn’t wait to escape from Devon and looks down on the impoverished locals. It’s agonising for him to have to relocate back there. As well as their two daughters, Lottie has a son, Zan, from another relationship.They decide to stay in the village for a year and then return to London. Quentin finds it difficult – he complains of the lack of ‘lifestyle’ in the village ie fashionable restaurants etc and what he perceives to be the miserable life of the locals. He says that if it were a village in rural France the villagers would be wearing fashionable clothes and there’d be restaurants etc.
I’m not going to give away too many spoilers but the novel interweaves the lives of the Bredins with those of some of the people they come into contact with in the village. A 70 year old rock star and his family, a local nurse, the cleaner and her daughter, the Polish workers in the local factory. The novel discusses the effects or the pros and cons of immigrants working within a rural community.
Intriguingly, there’s a mystery at the center of the novel which holds the readers attention throughout. Unknown to Lottie and Quentin, a murder has been committed at the house they’ve rented – the body of a local man who lived at the house was found but no head. I enjoyed how cleverly the murder plot (a kind of Agatha Christie who done it) was placed as the background to the lives of Lottie and Quentin. Most importantly, I enjoyed the changes that took place within the Bredin family.
‘What redemption can there be? Yet to believe that no change is possible, is impossible too, for life is change; and change, life.
The novel examines how people can, do and must change. It’s inevitable – we never remain the same. Life, experience changes us all.
If you enjoy mystery and suspense then this novel is definitely one for you.
The Lie of the Land is published by Little, Brown
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (from Amanda Craig’s website https://www.amandacraig.com/about-amanda-craig/
Amanda Craig is a British novelist, short-story writer and critic. Born in South Africa in 1959, she grew up in Italy, where her parents worked for the UN, and was educated at Bedales School and Clare College Cambridge.
After a brief time in advertising and PR, she became a journalist for newspapers such as The Sunday Times, the Observer, The Daily Telegraph and the Independent, winning both the Young Journalist of the Year and the Catherine Pakenham Award. She was the children’s critic for The Independent on Sunday and The Times, and one of the first to spot the Harry Potter books, Phlip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Twilight, How to Train Your Dragon and The Hunger Games.
She still reviews children’s books for The New Statesman, and literary fiction for The Observer, but is mostly a full-time novelist. Her last novel, Hearts And Minds, was long-listed for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction.
In 2017 she published two works with Little,Brown: The Other Side of You (a novella for Galaxy Quick Reads) and The Lie Of the Land. She is currently working on her eighth novel, which is inspired by the fairy-tale of Beauty and the Beast.
Each novel can be read separately but is part of an interconnected contemporary cast of characters, in which minor protagonists become major. Though her novels often contain a detective or genre plot, they are literary fiction, most often compared to Dickens and Balzac. She is regarded as a state of the nation novelist, commenting on the gulf between rich and poor.