Cover Image: The Supreme Lie

The Supreme Lie

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Member Reviews

This is a really unusual, yet beautifully written book that I felt really surprised by. It doesn't fit into an obvious 'dystopian, fantasy or adventure mould although it is definitely all of those things (as well as a book celebrating the faithfulness of dogs) . The themes of disinformation, political scheming, social control and corruption aren't the usual MG fare either. It's a thoughtful, unique,  intriguing book that discerning young readers will find thought- provoking.
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This story is set in the fictional land of Afalia.  Through the story you get clues to where about in the the world the country might be found with references to other near by countries and places Afalia trades with but it doesn't actually matter. This story operates on two levels; one is a thrilling adventure story set in the scene of a disastrous flood; the other is a clever piece of political and social commentary.

Geraldine McCaughrean is a very skilful writer and the story moves seamlessly between various different perspectives.  Most interestingly the story often follows the point of view of Heinz, a dog belonging to a teenage boy called Clem.  The other main point of view is of Gloria, a teenage girl who is maid to the Suprema (leader of the state of Afalia).  I really enjoyed the way the writing shifted perspectives and there is a real fondness for 'man's best friend' in this story.

The main premise of the story is that their is a disastrous flood that is affecting the country.  The Suprema, at the start of the story, takes a train in secret to the north of the country to see what she can do to help, or so she says.  As it turns out she has in fact run away from her responsibilities, leaving her husband, the maid and the dog to face the music.  Timor, the Suprema's husband, decides to hide the fact that his wife has abandoned the city in its hour of need and gets Gloria, the maid to pretend to be the head of state.

The whole situation gets more and more fraught as the rains continue and the politicians need to take action in order to ensure peoples safety.  This is where the social and political commentary come in because the politicians in the story generally look to their own self interest and and put greed and power above doing what is best for the people.  The story shifts location as well as perspective as it centres on Praesto City, the seat of power and the refugees in the North near Rose City.  Praesto city is also the centre of industry and as a result the place were the rich and powerful live.

I won't go any further into what actually happens in the story suffice to say that it is fascinating and engaging and there are plenty of twists in the tale that left me guessing what was going to happen a lot of the time.  The characters are portrayed brilliantly, from the world weariness of Timor to the wide eyed innocence and idealism of Gloria (and of course, the clever, manipulating, power hungry politicians).  

This is a brilliant piece of writing and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was hard to put the book down as at the end of every chapter I was left wondering what was going to happen next.  It is a story of characters and of people finding their place in the world but it is also a story that casts its eye over how society and the powerful behave when things go wrong.  It also looks at the role of the media and how propaganda and misinformation can influence our thinking-something which I think is crucial to be aware of in our modern society of information being at your fingertips.

The book will be published in April 2021 but you can pre order it now.  If you have read any of Geraldine McCaughrean's books before you will probably love this; if you haven't, you really should-she is a fantastic writer.  This book would probably suit the Young Adult market best although I can see children in Middle Grade (aged 10+) enjoying it as well, although perhaps some of the subtleties of social commentary will pass them by.  It is also a book that adults would enjoy, which perfectly highlights the skill of the writer.
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It is ironic reading this when it has been raining a while and our river is flooded, plus with a virus spreading and the mis-handling of that as well as a four-year negotiation fiasco by the Government, I felt a lot of empathy with the people of Praesto as their city slowly is submerged by rising floodwater.
Madame Suprema rules over the Senate and has to decide whether or not to close the floodgates which have not been closed within a generation’s lifetime. She can’t make that decision without expert advice, so calls upon the meteorologists to send her the weather forecast. A letter detailing this is duly delivered and the Suprema announces all is well. She then decides to leave the city, supposedly to visit those suffering further north. Her husband Timor, maid Gloria and dog Daisy inadvertently get left behind, which is lucky for them, but it sets in motion a string of events that eventually prove impossible to maintain. 
This book defies a simple explanation. Just when Gloria was thinking a solution was obvious, the consequences were pointed out to her and each decision became more and more convoluted as she tied herself up in knots trying to do the right thing. 
The role of the press is examined in spreading ‘Fake news’, power is abused, refugees are blamed for misfortunes, man’s interference in nature has consequences, all current concerns in our world. 
A writer who straddles more than one age group, Geraldine McCaughrean has produced a book to appeal to many if you can keep up with events.
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