Soulful and intelligent

2011-06-01 00:00

DO children have a right to know every secret in their parents’ past? How much have you told your children about the less savoury aspects of your youth? And how does a daughter reconcile the image of the mother she thought she knew with the mother she discovers she really had?

The Lies We Shared is a compelling, ­articulate novel, which draws the reader straight into the life of Rebecca Falconer, as she gets news that her mother has died. Rebecca finds a memory box among her mother’s things and begins to realise that her mother’s history is very different from what she had believed.

Now displaced in an ­ennui-provoking England after their loved family farm Glencoe, in the Eastern highlands of Zimbabwe, was taken by war veterans under Robert Mugabe’s appropriation policy, Rebecca cannot quiet her sense of alienation from the bland land she now finds herself in. Previously primed to take over Glencoe, she now works for a publisher in frenetic London. The discovery of her mother’s secret faded photographs and letters, elicits a desire to know more, and a brewing nervous breakdown forces Rebecca to take leave and allows her to begin the exploration of her mother’s past.

Sarah Penny tackles difficult political aspects of Africa’s history head-on as ­Rebecca travels through Kenya and in memory relives the wrenching away of Glencoe. As she delves into her mother’s youth, she uncovers uncomfortable secrets about her mother’s actions during the height of the White Mischief decadence. A bit of a loner, Rebecca does not reveal her finds to others, and the reader becomes the sole witness to her interesting but disturbing discoveries.

An absorbing plot, a soulful and intelligent lead protagonist and well-rounded characters are brought together skilfully in a book which must be a bestseller. An accomplished writer, Sarah Penny deserves to do well out of this book. A great read, this is highly recommended.

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