Book Club: The Great Deception

Author: Joy Chambers
ISBN: 9780755352654
RRP: $29.99

Joy Chambers has written a novel that will surprise and shock, containing a relatively strong element of intrigue and more than a touch of romance.

All of the events in the novel link back to World War II so even though the narrative opens in Australia in 1947, after the end of the war, it isn’t long before we are transported to wartime Holland.

I am still a little ambivalent about this book, I can’t quite make up my mind. Part of this, a large part of this, is due to it being so heavily centred on WWII and the actions of the Nazis. The book has some stellar selling points but there were also aspects that left me less than impressed.

The chapters are extremely short which is something I really enjoyed. I tend to read in any slot of time I can find and I hate stopping mid-chapter so this was great for that.

We begin in NSW in 1947 with Shelly and Cole Wareing, newly married and far away from everyone they know. They don’t speak much of Cole’s time in the war but we slowly learn the things that Shelly knows, which isn’t much.

The first 130 pages are set in 1947, but not far in the narrative splits off to follow each of the main characters. The Peace time chapters follow three different characters in turn so the fact that the entire tale is narrated makes it much simpler to follow than if there were also multiple points of view.

great deception

These chapters raise many questions that can only be answered with a trip to the past, which is how we are returned to 1943. These chapters are concerned less with following all of our characters than with focusing on the character who raises the most questions. There are also brief snapshots of the other characters to share relevant information.

The wartime section was very drawn out and gave a vivid view of goings on in occupied countries, so though our original characters are Australian much of the narrative is set in the war-torn European regions. We read much about the Nazi treatment of the Dutch and the Jews, visiting prison camps with our characters and seeing the way the SS controlled the populace.

I appreciate that there were many questions to be answered in the wartime section but I believe it could have been done more succinctly. Even as these chapters unraveled more questions were raised but all of them were answered quite satisfactorily.

Once the questions were answered it was a quick cut back to post war 1947 to pick up where we left for the journey to the past. It glossed over the ensuing 2 years without telling us much about how they got from where we left them to 1947. Yes, I said not long ago that the war section could have been more succinct and now I’m wishing for elaboration but it isn’t the contradiction it seems.

Once back in 1947 all the loose ends are neatly tied up and some questions are answered that were never consciously asked.

The characters were complex which I think is necessary in a tale of this type. I don’t see how you can have secret agents or double agents that weren’t complex. Tudor, Cole and Laetitia were all quite likeable though with reservations because I was never quite sure what was going to jump out and bite me. They were commendable characters taking great risks for their country. Shelly too is a character to be admired, in the face of questionable evidence she chose to keep faith with her husband and set off on a quest of her own to find answers.

Many of the other characters were nauseating and reprehensible, I have never liked to hear/read/see anything about the fanatical followers of the Fuhrer and the staff he had enforcing his reign throughout the war.

Throughout the novel Chambers has used real historical figures and there are Author Notes to give a little background on the real people that appear in the book. The majority of the characters are fictitious and the story is fictional so the inclusion of historical figures seems a little superfluous.

The Great Deception illustrates the hardship faced by millions during the war, and the lingering effects afterwards. We are given an insight into life for Australians during the war, those still at home and doing what they can but still feeling that bit removed.

All in all an interesting read with all the elements of an engaging story, although it is one I found to be quite hard work. The element of romance was quite strong yet also quite subtle and slow building which worked for me, and I think for the story.

The Great Deception also explored the change the war wrought on people’s behaviour. Attachments and intimacies that may never have eventuated if it weren’t for the very real fear that at any time the reaper could come calling your name.

All of which worked just fine for me and then was instantly ruined with a seriously saccharine ending. I’m all for a happily ever after and everything working out for the best but this one took it a step too far for me, but I’m sure there will be romantics out there who read this and absolutely adore the ending.

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