About the Book
Quentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can’t afford to divorce. Having lost their jobs in the recession, they can’t afford to go on living in London; instead, they must downsize and move their three children to a house in a remote part of Devon. Arrogant and adulterous, Quentin can’t understand why Lottie is so angry; devastated and humiliated, Lottie feels herself to have been intolerably wounded.
Mud, mice and quarrels are one thing – but why is their rent so low? What is the mystery surrounding their unappealing new home? The beauty of the landscape is ravishing, yet it conceals a dark side involving poverty, revenge, abuse and violence which will rise up to threaten them.
Sally Verity, happily married but unhappily childless knows a different side to country life, as both a Health Visitor and a sheep farmer’s wife; and when Lottie’s innocent teenage son Xan gets a zero-hours contract at a local pie factory, he sees yet another. At the end of their year, the lives of all will be changed for ever.
I was thrilled to be offered the chance to read and review this book for the blog tour as I love Amanda Craig’s writing. I’m happy to say that The Lie of the Land did not disappoint!
Lottie and Quentin can’t afford to divorce as the family home will not sell for enough to allow them both to buy a new place in London. So now the family is in financial trouble and Lottie decides they should rent a place in Devon, where property is cheaper and let out their own house. The hope is that house prices in London will continue to rise so they can sell.
The novel is told from the perspective of multiple narrators:
Quentin Bredlin is a serial adulterer who is completely self-obessed and selfish. He blames his wife for putting their children first when they were babies and sees his cheating as something he simply had to do, almost as if he was powerless to do otherwise. It becomes apparent that his mother has doted on him and he’s spent his life looking for a woman who will fulfil that role. He’s not remotely likeable but as the novel goes on there are moments where we see a different side to him and we get to see that he has more layers to his personality.
Lottie Bredlin is utterly sick of her philandering husband and she just wants him out of her life so that she can figure out what is next in her life. She feels very put upon and can’t seem to figure a way out now they can’t afford to divorce.
‘Each minute of each hour, she feels maddened by sharing the same air, let alone the same roof…. She accuses him of being shallow, promiscuous, irresponsible and a liar. He accuses her of being a sociopath, frigid and the most controlling person on earth.’
Lottie has a son, Xan, from a previous relationship and his chapters are really interesting. He’s a teenager, who failed to get into his choice of Uni so now has to move to Devon with the rest of his family. He’s mixed race and so feels very out of place in Trelorn but he soon begins to find his feet a little more when he gets a job in a local factory. He’s working with the poorest people in the community, and meets Polish girl, who quickly becomes his girlfriend. He has a fast-growing awareness of the way his family’s so-called poverty is nothing in comparison to how others life. Xan adapts to his new life and begins to plan for his future.
Lottie and Quentin have two young daughters together who immediately fall in love with country living, with no concept of how they lives have changed due to finances. They quickly adapt and get on with things, although they do ask questions about they way their mum and dad are with each other.
‘But why don’t you love each other any more?, Stella asks.
‘We just can’t,’ Lottie told them. She longs to be able to say, ‘Because your daddy is a selfish, lying philandering bastard,’ but must not.
The other narrator is a Trelorn local, Sally Verity. She is the county’s health visitor and mainly does home visits checking on new mums and babies. Sally is desperate for a baby of her own but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen for her and her husband, but her longing is palpable at times. Her husband is a farmer and she is very involved in running the farm too and deals with lambing, which is also hard for her because of her own need for a baby. I could really feel Sally’s pain – I’m of a similar age and have friends who are going through the incredibly difficult time of trying for a baby but being aware that age is not on their side. It’s also easier to identify with Sally than Lottie, especially in the way her marriage is. Sally is happy with her husband but it’s clear that she goes along with his opinion rather than pushing for what she wants, there is a moment where she rues the fact that she promised to obey him in her marriage vows, whereas Lottie seems like a strong woman who is stuck because predominantly because of finances.
There is a also a mystery running through the novel – the body of a headless local man is found prior to the Bredlin family moving to the village but the killer has never been caught. At times this felt like it was almost a metaphor for the way life can blind-side us but at the same time it was a genuine mystery that I was intrigued to see how it would be resolved before the end of the novel.
This is such a modern novel. On face value this is a novel about the breakdown of a marriage but it’s really about so much more than that. It’s such an incisive, multi-layered novel about the society we live in. It’s a character-driven story, which looks at class and race issues; it looks at how we define poverty. Amanda Craig really captures our society in a genuine and honest way, whilst also giving it a good dose of dark humour, wryness and wit.
‘Remind me how men came to rule the world?’
‘Women have children,’ Marta says.
I got completely and utterly caught up in this novel – once I started reading I just got lost in the pages and didn’t want to put it down. Some of the characters are not very likeable but other characters made me feel such sympathy for them, and the whole melting pot made for a brilliant read. The Lie of the Land is a novel I will be thinking about for a good while to come and I highly recommend you grab a copy of this book – you won’t regret it!
I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Lie of the Land is due to be published on 15th June and can be pre-ordered now.
About the Author
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 will publish two works with Little,Brown: The Other Side of You (a novella for Galaxy Quick Reads) and The Lie Of the Land.
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.
(Author photo and bio taken from: Amanda Craig‘s website)
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