I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read this on netgalley in exchange for an honest (but late – sorry!) review. All views and opinions are my own.
The Supreme Lie by Geraldine McCaughrean, cover art by Leo Nickolls, interior art by Keith Robinson, published by Usborne
I had high hopes for this after loving Geraldine McCaughrean’s Where the World Ends and, while WTWE is still my favourite, this certainly lived up to expectations; I loved the darkness of WTWE but for those who may have found it a little too dark, this provides a little more light relief and hope to balance out its heavier themes and events.
When a catastrophic flood hits Afalia and the Suprema (their Head of State) secretly flees, her maid Gloria is forced to step in and pretend to be her in order to cover it up.
With rising water levels, impossible choices deceitful politicians and an unhappy public, Gloria and Timor (the Suprema’s husband) must make some difficult and dangerous decisions which sees thousands of lives (their own included) at risk.
I loved the characters in this – they were without doubt its strongest feature for me. Gloria herself was a brilliant, believable main character who you couldn’t fail to empathise with and warm to. Her naivety and optimism were her strengths and a perfect tonic to the lies and treachery all around her.
The rest of the cast were fantastic too (I especially liked Timor) and the twists and doubts surrounding their actions, motives and intentions were very clever, with some truly despicable, though all too believable and familiar, villains.
Running alongside Gloria’s narrative is that of Clem, or more accurately Clem’s dog Heinz. Clem lives outside the capital; cut off and flooded out his family flee but are separated from his beloved dog Heinz, who we follow on his journey through the floodwater to reunite with his boy.
This was a really effective way of highlighting the damage and devastation caused by the freak rain and flooding, to both communities and to the natural world, which was so hard to read without a worrying air of ‘that could be us’ hanging over it.
Likewise, it served also to show the way those outside the capital were pretty much abandoned to their fates and left to look out for themselves (and each other). I won’t say much more here for risk of spoilers but the Rosies and were wonderful to read!
This was also a great way to provide that aforementioned light to balance out the dark. The use of both Clem’s dog, Heinz and Gloria’s dog, Daisy, was a great way to inject some hope, comfort and loyalty into a book otherwise filled with despair, discomfort and deception.
And their relationships with the children in the story was a heart-warming thing. Dog lovers everywhere will feel this in their hearts.
The use of newspaper reports throughout raised the very topical issue of ‘fake news’ and cleverly highlighted the way political agendas, and politicians themselves, can manipulate and manufacture what the public see and hear for their own gains or plans.
I loved the twist in the newspaper tale and the daily anagrams, and Keith Robinson has done a fantastic job of illustrating these articles, which feel real and perfectly in keeping with the rest of the book. They are a brilliant addition to the story.
Dark and darkly funny too, this is a sharp and witty social and political commentary that I thoroughly enjoyed – “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” has never felt so true or so timely.