Children's Gregory Maguire The Good Liar

ISBN 13: 9780395906972

The Good Liar

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9780395906972: The Good Liar

The year is 1940 and France has fallen to the German army. In the village of Mont-Saint-Martin, brothers Pierre, René, and Fat Marcel enjoy an idyllic childhood-stealing berry tarts, playing soldiers, and holding contests to determine who of the three is the biggest and best liar. As the small community, especially its Jewish members, begins to feel the effects of the war, René and Marcel form a warm but secret friendship with one of the German soldiers occupying their village. The boys know no good can come of this friendship, but they don't realize the extent to which they have put the lives of their family and friends in jeopardy . . . until they discover that they are not the only experts at lying. In this poignant, thoughtful, and charming story, told in the form of letters to a group of schoolchildren by the now-adult Marcel, Gregory Maguire again proves his range and depth as a storyteller. First published in Ireland, "The Good Liar" was short-listed for the 1997 Reading Association of Ireland book award and selected as one of the hundred best books of 1996 by the Young Book Trust, England.

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About the Author:

Gregory Maguire is the popular author of many books for children, including the Hamlet Chronicles for Clarion, as well as several adult books, including WICKED (HarperCollins), upon which a Broadway musical was based, and its sequel, CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY STEPSISTER (Regan Books). He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Review:

For a school project, three students must interview an elderly individual about his or her experiences during World War II; they manage to track down M. Delarue, a landscape painter who lived in France as a child. His memory triggered by the questions of his young interrogators, he writes a long letter, divided into sections, about life in his small village after its occupation by German troops. The device is effective, permitting the individual chapters to emerge as self-contained vignettes while retaining a sense of overall unity. There is a plot, the resolution of which is gradually revealed as M. Delarue and his brothers mature. Having prided themselves on escaping the consequences of their escapades by being accomplished liars, they now must learn that truth has many facets, and that charity sometimes requires that it be concealed. The initial chapters are filled with the details of boyhood shenanigans-from spilling a precious bucket of milk to "liberating" prize irises from the convent garden. Yet a darker tone pervades the narrative, rising to a crescendo in the final pages when the narrator and his brother Ren‚ learn not only why their secret friendship with a German soldier cannot continue but also the surprising identity of the most accomplished liar of them all. Although easy to read, the book is sophisticated in concept. At once poignant and thoughtful, laced with humor, it offers readers an unusual perspective on history.
Horn Book

"Humorous, sad, involving vignettes comprise the short, fast-paced chapters that add up to a tale that seems more vivid memoir than invented." Kirkus Reviews

Hoping for a good grade on their World War II project, three Florida girls write a letter of questions to Marcel Delarue, an artist who grew up in occupied France. In reply, he sends a long letter that becomes the text of this first-person novel. After he sketches in the background (a village in the middle of France), and the central characters (Marcel, his two brothers, and their mother), their story begins to unfold. The framework of the letters gradually disappears from readers' consciousness as Marcel's childhood observations and experiences become increasingly compelling. The three brothers are convincingly imperfect in their actions, childlike in their attitudes, and human in their reactions to events and emotions. Marcel's innocent, often silly lies and escapades are eventually shadowed by the realization of certain misunderstood conversations and events that add up to a larger lie. Marcel's mother finally lets him in on the secret to keep him from unwittingly revealing it: for more than a year, a Jewish woman and her daughter have been hiding in a secret crawl space in their home, coming out only at night when the children are asleep. Quietly told, this absorbing story carries the conviction of memoir rather than invention. Another memorable story of World War II.
Booklist, ALA

March 22, 1999 Publishers Weekly, Starred

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