Tuesday 30 July 2013


Book review: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 1 August 2013 by Pan Macmillan, 335 pages.

Description: North Carolina, 1960. Newlywed Jane Forrester, fresh out of university, is seeking what most other women have shunned: a career. But life as a social worker is far from what she expected. Out amongst the rural Tobacco fields of Grace County, Jane encounters a world of extreme poverty that is far removed from the middle-class life she has grown up with. But worse is still to come.

Working with the Hart family and their fifteen-year-old daughter Ivy, it’s not long before Jane uncovers a shocking secret, and is thrust into a moral dilemma that puts her career on the line, threatens to dissolve her marriage, and ultimately, determines the fate of Ivy and her family forever. Soon Jane is forced to take drastic action, and before long, there is no turning back.


Necessary Lies centers on two young women, Jane Forrester and Ivy Hart. 22-year-old Jane recently married and is very much middle-class. Even though her husband Robert makes enough money as a pediatrician to support them both she's desperate to have her own job for a while, as she wants to help other people before she inevitably becomes pregnant and housebound. She manages to find a job as a social worker in the welfare department and when her boss has an accident Jane is thrown into the field much sooner than expected and quite unprepared she has to use her instincts to try to make the right decisions for the families in her care.

The Hart family is one of particular importance to Jane. Grandmother 'Nonnie' lives with her teenaged granddaughters Ivy and Mary Ella, and the latter's 2-year-old son Baby William, in a tiny little house on the land of the Gardiners. Ivy and Mary Ella's father was tragically killed in a farming accident when they were still little and Mr Gardiner feels responsible so lets them live in the house for free. In return, the Harts continue to work on his tobacco fields. Mary Ella is feeble minded and when she became pregnant aged just fourteen taking care of the family became Ivy's responsibility, despite her being two years her sister's junior. Now with Baby William roaming around looking for trouble around every corner and Nonnie becoming more ill and weaker by the day the strain is really getting to Ivy. The only thing she finds solace in is the secret nights spend with the Gardiners' son, Henry Allen, who is her boyfriend.

As Jane grows fond of the Hart family and uncovers some horrifying deep-buried secrets she has to decide whether she chooses to do what everyone says she should be doing, based solely on the fact that the Harts are living in extreme poverty and have a bleak future ahead of them, or what she thinks would be the right choice in their case - and Ivy in particular, a girl she sees a lot of potential in despite the discouraging circumstances.

Some months the majority of novels I read I can only classify as average at best and other months I read one amazing book after another; July definitely falls in the second category. I've been fortunate to receive some fantastic titles recently that while wildly different are all noteworthy, gripping and memorable. Necessary Lies is all these things because it is an absolute eye-opener and a heartbreaking one at that. It's not only exceptionally well-written fiction but author Diane Chamberlain has also incorporated a piece of genuine history not often explored in commercial women's literature; the Eugenics Sterilization Program, which is something I'd associate with Nazi Germany not the swinging sixties.

In fact, the extreme poverty, racial segregation and general descriptions of rural North Carolina emit the feeling that the story is set in the late nineteenth century not the 1960s, as I can't imagine anyone living in these shocking conditions in the same period in the Netherlands which is when my parents were growing up. It is easy to get lost in long bygone days when reading the pages but then the mention of much more modern concepts, such as a television, pull the reader right back into the 20th century and the harsh realisation that these horrors happened really not all that long ago and perhaps behind closed doors may still be continuing.

Distressing and immensely sad yet also intriguing and educational, Necessary Lies is a poignant and powerful must-read novel about family, exploitation and defying expectations based on wealth, race and social generalisations.

Purchase your copy now from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Waterstones or your own preferred retailer.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with a proof copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review

Would you like to know more about author Diane Chamberlain? You can connect with her online at:

Website: dianechamberlain.com

Twitter: @d_chamberlain

Facebook: facebook.com/Diane.Chamberlain.Readers.Page

Pinterest: pinterest.com/dianewriter

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