A satirical tale of modern Britain: The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig
The Lie of the Land is a surprising novel, one that draws the reader into an environment of mystery and injustice after a beginning that seems like just another book about a warring, divorcing couple with children and a past. Lottie and Quentin cannot afford to split up and move their family from London to Devon to downsize and wait until a divorce is practical. However, Craig’s novel becomes a lot more than that, with a large cast of characters and a background mystery alongside images of rural poverty and difficulties unimagined by the Londoners.
As the book unfolds, it is clear that the rural setting will become more congenial to the main characters, but also that it will be as rich and varied as the city they are used to. A recent unsolved murder may make this novel sound like a quaint mystery story, but really it is a modern tale, with a sharp background of the recession and countryside deprivation and intolerance. The writing is straightforward and engaging, shaping out side characters as well as the main family so that this is not just a story of hapless city dwellers arguing in the countryside. Lottie’s eighteen year old son Xan is one of the most engaging characters, torn up about his own future, his unknown father, and the events that occur in his life in Devon.
Craig’s novel takes the Brexit claims of a metropolitan elite versus a disaffected countryside and shows a human, less simple vision, in which Polish and local workers are exploited together by a factory, and the London housing crisis can both hinder and help people. Though the political and social elements of the book are secondary to the main narrative, they make it a more intriguing read than it would be without them. It is a contemporary, human novel, focused on characters but also on modern Britain.