The Supreme Lie
by Geraldine McCaughrean
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Pub Date 15 Apr 2021 | Archive Date 18 Apr 2021
Twice Carnegie medal winning Geraldine McCaughrean's enthralling new novel is set in a world paralysed by natural disaster and dangerous lies.
Fifteen-year-old Gloria is maid to Afalia's tyrannical Head of State, Madame Suprema. When the country is hit by unprecedented flooding, Madame Suprema runs away, fearing she will be blamed for the crisis. To cover up this cowardly act, Gloria is made to step into Madame Suprema's shoes and is thrust into a world of corrupt and desperate politicians. As Gloria becomes aware of the forces toying with her every move, she must take decisions that could save, or end, thousands of lives - including her own...
A brilliant and darkly funny commentary on our present times by one of our greatest writers.
“McCaughrean writes extraordinary books” The Sunday Times
“An awe-inspiring writer.” – The Sunday Telegraph
Carnegie Award Winner
Blue Peter Award Winner
Costa Book Awards Winner
Nestle Children’s Book Prize Winner
American Library Association Award Winner
Indie Book Award Winner
Michael Printz Award Winner
Hans Christian Andersen Award Nominee
From the author of Where the World Ends :
“From this tragedy McCaughrean has created a wonderful love story.” Michael Morpurgo
“A tragic yet beautiful novel about the power of stories.” Sarah Crossan
“This is the best book I've read this year. Extraordinary...” Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 43 members
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.
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.
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.
This review is for an advanced copy. It is a bit divided, but I have to be honest:
I so wanted to like this book. The premise intrigues, and I'd heard great things about the author. But the first third somewhat disappoints. It drags on, most of the characters and their actions feel false or even ridiculous, and the writing jumps around so much at times that I had to reread several parts more than once to find what I had missed, but I was none the wiser. And yet, I had to know what happened.
I am pleased to say that the book gets better the further you read. Particularly in the last third, the pace really picks up; the characters become much more rounded and real; and you become completely invested in the outcome and whether the loose ends are neatly tied up. There are moments of pure poetry, the plot works and the important messages of the book are made clear. It really rescues itself here.
Torn feelings aside, this is a story about truth and lies, about friends and foes, and about natural disasters and who really benefits (or suffers) from human action. It is based in the 20th century, but has important implications for our own: namely, that the press and politicians can't always be trusted and that people are still people, no matter where they come from. It's poignant, relevant and in turns funny and disturbing. If you can get past that first third, it really is worth it. A good YA read.
Thank you for the advance copy of this book. Once again, Geraldine McCaughrean delivers a fantastic novel. Her writing has a unique voice and I found myself at times concentrating more on the wonderful narrative voice than on the story, that's certainly not to say the story wasn't groping, it was. But in any book by this author the way she writes is as wonderful as the actual story. I shall certainly be recommending this book to our readers.
The writing in this was absolutely bonkers. Seriously, I've heard people rave about this author but until I'd read The Supreme Lie, I thought they were exaggerating. Spoiler alert, they weren*t.
I loved how this was mostly a story about dichotomies - friends and foes, truths and lies, and yet it was not afraid to walk the line between these topics.
The pacing was a bit off in the beginning but really got going toward the end and this will for sure not be my last novel by this author!
Political scheming - Social control - disinformation - Corruption. A book full of mystery and the pure kindness of people. This is a really unusual, yet beautifully written book that I felt really surprised, but nonetheless I could not put the book down. It doesn't fit into an obvious 'category although i enjoyed the fact the book celebrates the loyalty of dogs.. The book contains many topical issues that can be addressed with children and provide thought provoking discussions and a good understanding of environmental issues and politely power. It's a thoughtful, unique, intriguing book that discerning young readers will find thought- provoking
The Supreme Lie is a ripping adventure story that feels almost too real and not always in a good way. Set in a corrupt city, Gloria is the maid of the city's leader Madame Suprema, a natural disaster has led to the river flooding the surrounding farmland and it is against this event that the characters are set. Who will put their own needs above their neighbours, will the rich support those who are left with nothing and how will those outside and inside the city walls survive? Gloria is thrust into a world of policy and deception, but her underlying desire is to help the poorest people from the farmlands and the city. Setting out to support the poorest citizens, she means well but often ends up making the situation worse. With the water rising, hard decisions are made and their lives will change forever.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Found it a slow burn to start and confusing over the switch of the story POV between human character and dog characters. It is very dystopian, but a dystopian set in the 1920’s of the fictious land of Alafia and the art work contributes to this feel. But once you got it the swing of it, it works. Has politics, corruption, fake news, environmental disaster and trying to do the right thing in the face of it all.
The country of Afalia has been hit by relentless rain leading to dangerous flooding. Gloria is a 15 year old maid to Madame Suprema, the secretive and dictatorial ruler of Afalia; she lives in the capital city Praesto and her only real friends are Daisy the dog, and Higgy, who works in a factory. When Madame Suprema runs away from the crisis, her husband world-weary husband Timor has to cover up her disappearance – and asks Gloria to pretend to be Madame Suprema. Much hilarity is the result, but with dark undercurrents of corruption, desperation, and most of all lies – which are supported and encouraged by the newspaper ‘The Voice’.
Meanwhile in the countryside, Heinz is a dog trying to find his Boy Clem, who has been flooded out of his home and is heading south as a refugee. In his search for his Boy, he travels with a dumb dog named MyCar, a pack of feral dogs and a horse. Heinz is desperate to avoid ‘Hound Death’ who because of the flooding is busy collecting souls of humans and animals.
These two narratives eventually weave together in this imaginative and highly original book. Gloria is a worthy heroine struggling to make the right decisions in her new position of power; her relationship with prickly Timor is comic gold but also complex. Heinz is everything a dog should be and more.
This is a thrilling adventure story with plenty of twists and turns, but it also has depth and breadth with an underlying social and political commentary on greed, corruption, manipulation, exploitation and mobs --- and also courage and the willingness to stand up for what is right and true.
I am a huge fan of Geraldine McCaughrean’s writing (Stop the Train is my family’s all-time favourite shared book – we listened to it as a family 12 years ago and it still regularly comes up in conversation). Her vivid imagery and clever use of unusual details creates unforgettable characters, and the understated and matter-of-fact narration of devastating events only increases the emotional punch they carry.
As I reached the last few pages of the book, I felt myself tearing up because the journey Geraldine McCaughrean was taking me on was coming to an end. The Supreme Lie is truly an extraordinary book which I will be recommending to students from Year 7 up – and to anyone else who enjoys a great read.
This cover had me clicking request quickly! The title is intriguing and begged reading.
Diving in, the book was a slow start, introducing the characters and fictional land known as Afalia. The Supreme Leader wears a veil to cover her face so no one knows what she looks like. She comes across as selfish and cruel. The land is in danger from the constant rain and other towns and cities are flooding and wanting help from Afalia. Determined to escape, she boards a train.
Left behind are her husband and maid Gloria. These two will need to work together, conspire and lie to ensure the safety of Afalia and its people.
The Supreme Lie comes in the form of a secret kept from everyone!
The unique and beautifully written tale is brilliant for older readers- full of drama, political intrigue, adventure and corruption, this is one to dive into. It kept me reading late into the night as I couldn't put it down. At times I was shocked, surprised, horrified and sad. At others I laughed, felt a happy ending was in sight and hopeful.
A brilliant book for Yr 6 and above- I wouldn't give it to anyone younger- there are some tricky scenes to navigate.
McCaughrean writes across the spectrum, for children, teens, young adults and those of us who no longer belong in this category; it's one of the many reasons I admire her as a seasoned and skilled writer. "The Supreme Lie" fits comfortably somewhere within the YA bracket. In terms of genre, however, I'm at a loss. Drama, certainly, with splashes of fantasy, dystopia, political intrigue and adventure. It feels art deco in period but simultaneously very modern. I've found this with McCaughrean in the past - she frequently straddles genres and styles with impressive grace.
In essence, the country's leader 'does a bunk' when unprecedented floods bring chaos to a region. To hide the leader's cowardice, her husband hatches a plot to pretend the leader is still present by dressing up the 15 year old maid, Gloria. As you can imagine, the situation gets pretty fraught. It's quite Shakespearean - think Twelfth Night" or "Measure for Measure."
Having read other reviews - after finishing the book - I can see some readers have criticised McCaughrean for being a little bizarre or far-fetched. First, the bizarre is a characteristic I always enjoy in McCaughrean's work. In "The Supreme Lie," we are often treated to the perspective of Heinz, a loyal dog. His adventure, trials and worries during the flood are expressed through his internal monologue. It's beautiful - not bizarre - to see canine loyalty given so much page. In terms of being far-fetched... pffft. I'd argue that having watched the last American administration coupled with having experienced the handling of 2020-2021 (stares hard at 10 Downing Street). McCaughrean has sculptured a plausible political landscape. Scheming public servants, environmental crisis, mass media scare-mongering, biased news reporting, power grabbiness and dis/mis-information: what's far-fetched about that?!
Overall, it's funny and dark. Often, for young people such as Gloria, the solutions to real world issues appear simple. McCaughrean illuminates that this isn't the case but that decisions made with a strong moral compass will always be preferable to those steered by corruption.
The supreme lie was a gripping, suspenceful novel with a satisfing end and a quick beginning that had you hooked from the start and such mysterious, inriguing charachters and a terrifingly real villian. I felt that there was an amazing description of the refugees journey and how the dog held on to hope even when all hope was gone. The hound death that heinze sees so much is also brilliantly written whenever heinze askes to fight him.
overall i thought this was an amazing book that is sure to become a classic.
As always from Geraldine McCaughrean, this is an absolutely fantastic adventure. Set in a fictional country facing a disastrous flood, this is a story about power and corruption and the manipulation of the press to suit the needs of those in power, yet at the very heart it is a story about ordinary people (and dogs) becoming unlikely heroes.
I read this in one sitting and cannot wait to stock it in the school library - this is one to fly off the shelves
It took me a little while to get into this, but I love this author and soon found myself loving this book. She has a quirky style all of her own and I loved the way she builds her world and the people in it. I can see it being a brilliant film.
Madame Suprema, the head of Afalia runs away when the land is in danger of flooding, to avoid the consequences. To cover up her disappearance, Gloria her 15 year old maid takes her place, a feat accomplished since the leader hasn't shown her face in years, hiding behind a veil.
I adore fish out of water situations. Not only does Gloria have to impersonate someone else, but she has the fate of her country in her hands and shady politics to deal with. The antithesis of her small town roots with the powerful woman she must portray is depicted quite well. The evolution of the character and her eyes opening to 'how the world really works' is done quite well too. Her 'simple' questions spark your pondering of societal issues and how life should be.
The narrative is quirky and noir and at the same time with inventive flourishes like pages from the Afalian newspaper between chapters and the thoughts of dogs! Peppered with poignant descriptions and quite imaginative figurative speech for example, "she could feel herself shrinking as spinach does from cooking".
I began wishing the book would concentrate more on Gloria acting as Suprema and less on other stuff. The dog thing dragged a little in the 1st half of the book, even though it was an original way to see what was really happening in the rest of the country.
Commenting on the situation of there being haves and have-nots and the glaring differences between them. The 'powerful" and the 'powerless'. How we wield power says a lot about our character, what kind of people we are. How a crisis can bring out the best or the worst in people. How resilient people can be.
Shocking and twisty, this is a seemingly simple but actually multilayered examination of human nature and how dark it and politics can be, but still full of hopeful messages that people can and want to make a difference.
An adventure story of a fictional land, a flood, a fantastic dog, and some villainous , and some heroic characters. Totally and utterly bonkers, with some real page turning writing.
I was not sure what to expect from this book, but by the end I really enjoyed it.
Gloria is maid to the Head of State Madam Suprema, but when a flood comes which threatens the county Madam Suprema runs away and Gloria finds herself pretending to be her.
All areas of the country are affected but most of the action takes place in the main city.
The Supreme Lie looks at how people look at others that they see as different from them and how people of power can feed the fear.
A the end you are asking questioning what you know about what you hear and read and what the truth actually is.
The rain will not stop. Floodwaters are rising. Closing the gates to protect the capital city of Afalia will cut its citizens off from families in the country abandoning them to their fate. There are hard decisions to be made but Afalia’s Head of State Madame Suprema hurriedly takes the last train out of the city and vanishes. To cover for her, her husband pushes a naive 15 year old housemaid into her place, disguised behind Madame’s trademark veil and red lipstick. Gloria can’t see why people don’t do the obviously right things and discovers that as the Suprema she can make them happen. A duel narrative follows Heinz, a dog from up-river as he searches for his lost family. Through him we see the destruction and death. Heinz knows what he needs to do but things are harder for Gloria and the Suprema’s husband Timor and the more they find out about what is really happening the harder their choices become.
I loved kind hearted straightforward Gloria and it was a pleasure to see Timor come out from the shadow of his abusive wife and reclaim his own life and opinions.
Geraldine McCaughrean is a double Carnegie Medal winner for a good reason – the vivid similes, metaphors and thought provoking lines bring her fantasy country to convincing life. The twists and turns of the plot will keep you reading, eager to see what will happen next. I’m still annoyed with myself that I failed to spot a clue hidden in plain sight.
An eco-thriller, a fantasy and a fable for our times. It’s a reminder that when someone throws a dead cat on the table you should look for what they are hoping you won’t see. That newspapers are not there just to tell us facts. That we should ask awkward questions about who is behind the scenes and what they want. Natural disasters are nobody’s fault but how you respond and what you do is what really matters.
For young people of 12+ ( a natural disaster does mean some death and destruction) and this would be a great choice for a reading group discussion.
A very original story that highlights the dangers of climate change, political corruption and fake news.
Once again Geraldine McCaughrean has taken a real event from the past and given it a new lease of life. The striking cover portrays all the book’s key elements; Gloria, the rain, the floodwater and the dogs. The Supreme Lie is an exciting, fast-paced story with a dystopian ‘Brave New World’ feel. She tells us the story of Gloria, a 15-year-old maid who finds herself catapulted into a world of politics and power, full of lies, where she has to learn quickly how to distinguish the truth from the lies in her quest to save lives. With only ‘her’ dog Daisy and a ‘friend’ Timor to rely on, she does a better job than most adults in managing a crisis caused by massive floods. Contemporarily, we follow the story of Heinz, a dog, living outside the city walls searching for his owner amid the aftermath of the natural disaster. This story, set in the past, raises some important questions especially for teenagers in a world where we are bombarded with ‘news’ from a huge variety of sources “What is the truth?”. The author explores the themes of politics and power and we see the effects on the two cities and their inhabitants. The environment, how we manipulate it and the devastating effects our impact can have, is a strong message that runs throughout the story. The power of the media is also an important theme and the use of short newspaper articles to close each chapter is an effective and useful tool, especially for those whose first language isn’t English, to summarise what has happened in each chapter and create a 1920’s feel.
The chapters are short and fast-paced, passing from Gloria’s experiences in lie-laden Praesto city to Heinz’s truth in his journey in the desert around Rose City to reunite him with his owner. Dogs are given an unusual but entertaining role as protagonists in the story and we can parallel their nature and relationships with those of the humans we meet, as well as exploring the interactions between the two.
Even though this book is classed as fiction for Teens & YA, as an adult I found the story told from Gloria’s 15-year-old perspective refreshing and powerful, This story is a welcome reminder that we all need to try and make the world a better place. Thank you Gloria, thank you Daisy and Heinz, thank you Geraldine, and thank you Usborne especially for letting me read an advanced copy through NetGalley.
As an expat living in Italy, I highly recommend this book to those studying English as a foreign language or reading in English for pleasure. The language is very accessible and the short chapters make the story manageable and suitable for studying at school. The newspaper articles are an interesting device for teachers to use with students. Usborne doesn’t disappoint with its support and even though the book is yet to be published there is already an excellent resource available on their website with a list of thought-provoking questions for discussion. The first chapter is also available to read for free.
Gloria, a simple maid, finds herself impersonating Madame Suprema, the head of state during a major flood. Gloria and Timor, the suprema’s husband do not know where she is and panic when decisions need to be made over the state of emergency. Gloria tries to do her best for “her” people but she soon finds out that politics is both hard and corrupt.
This is not the usual sort of book I would pick up but I was really rather gripped by the whole story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, the world that was created and the story telling was so well done.
Floods are decimating the land of Afalia. Madam Suprema, the decision maker has disappeared leaving Gloria, a teenager, forced to imitate her and lead the country through dangerous times. Will Gloria lead in true Madame Suprema style, or will the information she learns mean Gloria needs to take a different path? A quirky story punctuated with newspaper headlines, anagrams and the thoughts of some very important dogs...
Genre: Young Adult | Dystopian | Fiction
Release Date: Expected 15th April 2021
The Suprema of Afalia has fled the city. The entire city of Praesto is in imminent danger of flooding and destruction, and now their leader is gone. Left behind is her maid, her husband and her dog - and they may be the only ones who know the situation deeply enough to try and fix it. Convinced by Madame Supremas husband, her maid Gloria agrees to wear the Veil of the Suprema and pose as their leader - the city needs to believe they have a leader if they have any hope of surviving.
Soon, the evacuation begins - pets are rounded up in the streets, the children are sent to safer places, businesses are closed and the politicans continue to do as they always have - lie. For Gloria, the answers are simple - do the right thing for the people. But she hasn't accounted for how just how corrupt and twisted the systems put in place to protect her really are.
This book is technically Young Adult fiction, but The Supreme Lie covers so much that it's almost impossible to categorize. Just a teenager herself, Gloria is forced very quickly into a world she had no idea existed and the fate of everybody is very much in her hands. Her eyes are opened to the horrors and manipulations of the world she lives in and it's up to her to fix it.
As we follow her journey as the new Suprema, we also get a first hand view of the broken city she is trying to protect through the eyes of a dog who lives in it's streets and sees everything. The narration was so uniquely engaging and vivid - each voice so distinct.
Sharply witty, dark and wickedly clever - this was an uncomfortable close examination of human nature and definitely felt a little too real, with thinly veiled parallells to the world we are living in and the fictional world Gloria calls home.
Thank you to Geraldine McCaughrean and Usbourne Publishing for an ARC in return for an honest review.
The environmental themes of this book make it one that will appeal to a hugely diverse YA audience. Add in the mystery of a stand in head of state and so much action, this will captivate you from page 1.
The Supreme Lie is a witty attack on the political era of Fake News perpetuated by governments to deceive their populace. In Afalia all is not what it seems. As climate disaster strikes, the floodwaters rise and the everyday lives of the people are upturned as they struggle to safe their city. However, the Supreme ruler Madame Suprema has fled leaving Afalia without their all powerful figurehead - step in Gloria. McCaughrean has created a wonderful world exposing the ripple effect of one 'white lie'. The examination of the motivations behind mistruth for a noble purpose and a deliberate falsehood for personal gain are beautifully juxtaposed. The gentle exposure of the faith placed in those in positions of power is a timely reminder that we should all question the motivations of our Heads of State and really examine what we believe to be right. Brilliant
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