Lie With Me

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Member Reviews

Have you ever read something so moving that you feel the need to distance yourself from it for a while? Philippe Besson’s Lie With Me is that book. I am beyond grateful that it has been translated from French to English so that it can be accessed by a wider reading population, and Molly Ringwald’s translation is stunning. Admittedly, it did take me a moment to get used to the American English, but after that I was consumed by the text.

The novel opens in 2007, but quickly shifts to the winter of 1984, in a childhood without choice, ‘a bygone era, a dying city, a past without glory.’ Our narrator is nameless, and we learn that he has been branded by the homophobic slurs typical of children. He is an outsider, and his inability to refute their claims confirms their suspicions.

At seventeen, the narrator is experiencing what might be his first crush. Thomas brings choice and emotion into his life, but this is not a thrilling tale of romance and first love with all the salacious details. Instead, there is vulnerability, secrecy and heartbreak. It encapsulates the experience I’m sure many of us find familiar and potentially traumatic to remember. Given that society is homophobic, affection feels unfamiliar and undeserved, and learning to be tender is not always an option available.

I found myself in tears when the narrator reflects upon the AIDS crisis. As a teenager he would have been unable to imagine the catastrophic loss ahead. Besson’s reflective style allows for the narrator to impart realities in the midst of teenage naïvety.

‘It’s there but we think we are safe from it. We know nothing of the grand decimation that will follow, depriving us of our best friends and old lovers, that will bring us together in cemeteries and cause us to scratch out names in our address books, enraging us with so many absences, such profound loss.’ 

The next two sections of the novel are set in 2007 and 2016, and they are equally moving. These chapters further explore the cost of shame and internalised homophobia.  

As the narrative is so ambiguous it is almost impossible to determine if this is a work of fiction or if it is rooted in memoir. Regardless, Besson has captured the experience of a life unlived and it is heart wrenching.
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I found Lie With Me a more engrossing coming-of-age tale than Call Me By Your Name, perhaps because it focused more strongly on the two men who formed the narrative, Thomas and Philippe.

Two adolescent boys meet and become lovers one short summer in 1984 but as adults they are destined to remain apart. Many years later Philippe meets Thomas's son, by chance and discovers what happened to him.

It surprised me that during the  1980s it was difficult to be openly gay in France. I wondered if the book was based on personal experience. Whether or not, it was a moving and riveting read and illustrates that a good novel doesn't need to be overlong to have great impact.

Many thanks to NetGalley and PenguinBooksUK for the opportunity to read and review Lie With Me.
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Is this a memoir or just fiction? Surely it's a memoir and if it is it makes this even more of a compelling read.I was a mess after I finished this.It was always going to be obvious the outcome for Thomas and Philippe wouldn't be the one the reader wanted and that wasn't really the reason I was a mess.It was more about the world we live in where as recently as the 1980's people still have to hide their sexuality and as a result never get to live their lives the way they want to.





Starting in 1984 and finishing in 2017 this one touched me deeply.Two young boys who became lovers for a summer but where never destined to be much more.




I did struggle,initially with the lack of dialogue but the more I read the more I didn't mind although as a result the book had a very melancholy feel to it.The joy and anguish of that first love told in the most beautiful words here.





The majority of the book centres around Thomas and Philippe's youth.How they got together and their subsequent relationship.My heart ached for these boys.Their story was so touching and yet so sad.How many people meet and fall in love and never really stand a chance? 





The later part is when Philippe meets Thomas's son by chance one day and finally finds out a little of Thomas's life after the summer of 1984.I say a little of Thomas's life because although his story is told there's so much you don't know in a way.




It's not romance but it definitely was a love story....
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This is an excellent memoir about the writer's experience of first love in a 1980s French school. It's a short book but it has stayed with me long after I finished it. Highly recommended.
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Absolutely beautiful. 
Well deserving of it's inclusion in awards lists, this evocative, concise and exquisitely rendered story of first love, lost youth and expectations/responsibilities vs living your truth.
I read this short book all in one morning, all throughout waiting with bated breath for it to destroy my heart and reduce me to tears......and it did, but kept that tension and expectation right until the very end..
I now want to read more of the authors work and really hope there are other novels translated into English so I don't have to ruin his wonderful story-telling by stumbling through in my frankly poor understanding of French - obviously my own failing, but I'm hopeful as I go off to search never-the-less!
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Sometimes your first love makes you. Most times, it will undo you. Lie with me tells the story of both. 

I had wanted to read this book for a long time so I opened it with a sense of trepidation, hoping I wouldn't be about to be sorely disappointed. I needn't have worried. Lie with me was fast and moving and beautiful and ultimately heartbreaking. It made me wish I was 17 again. It made me glad I'm not 17 anymore. Just gorgeous.
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‘Lie With Me’ is a short but powerful dedication to a rare kind of love, a relationship that a person carries with them for their entire lives. 

It shows sweet and pure adolescent love torn apart because it didn’t resemble hegemonic standards. How fear and internalised self hatred can prevent people from expressing their authentic selves and ultimately destroy lives, hence why the last chapter really had me on the verge of tears. 

Yes, it has similar tones to Call Me By Your Name but it is ultimately less sheltered in the beauty and warmth of Italy and brings more light to the fear of homophobia faced by most closeted lgbt+ kids in the 80s.

I loved Molly Ringwald’s translation although I found it difficult to connect to the multitudes of French places, books and other specific culture mentioned as a naive English reader. 

Overall, a short, sweet and sad tale that I really enjoyed.

Thank you to Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Lie With Me is a beautifully written lyrical novel by French author Philippe Besson about a love affair between two 17 year old boys in the 80s. They get together in their final year of school, hiding their relationship and meeting secretly, realising that their love has to stay invisible for the rest of the world. The book is full of exquisite passages expressing the boys' longing, burning love and heartbreak. At 160 pages this is a quick read that I savoured in a day.

"This feeling of love, it transports me, it makes me happy. At the same time, it consumes me and makes me miserable the way all impossible loves are miserable."

Many thanks to Penguin Books UK for a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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First love is always such a pivotal moment in anyone's life. It bewitches you. It nourishes you. It transforms you in such a way that you can never be what you were before. It's the loss of innocence but the gaining of so much more... It is the most timeless of love stories and this book perfectly encapsulates all the emotions that a young lover experiences. When the adult Philippe sees a young man who bears a striking resemblance to his first love we are transported back to 1984 and the relationship that defined his life. 
This short book is searingly beautiful. It's filled with the most beautifully lyrical prose that just reaches into your soul and holds you tightly in its grasp... And yes it's *that* Molly Ringwald that translated this! The story explores issues of homophobia, social class divide, shame and the crippling fear that someone can live with when they are innocent victims of such. The pain that emanates from this book is almost exquisite in how I keenly felt it as a reader. 

A powerfully intense literary novel that demands to be felt in your soul's core and one that I highly recommend 

Five stars. 

*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Penguin UK, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
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Definitely worth reading even if I can't stop asking myself if Besson said the truth in this memoir. I have some doubts about the encounters between the author and that other guy, maybe because these "meetings" were sometimes described in a rather emotionless way. Did they really happen? Instead what I think is certainly true is the "horror" he witnessed being a teen in the 1980s: "[...] or another game where she [the wife] pushed an apple across the floor with a banana dangling down between her legs by a string tied around her waist. The absolute vulgarity of it horrified me. "
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A very melancholic read I was not prepared for!

I went into this with a fairly low expectation because it kept being hailed as ‘the French Call Me by Your Name’ which I wasn’t a fan off. And I think that’s an unfair comparison. 
Lie With Me was so poignant and an emotionally charged read that it completely took me by surprise at how sad and emotional it made me. 
It might be a very short and concise read but it packed so much punch. 

Very pleasantly surprised.
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Beautifully evocative of time, place and being in love for the first time, Lie With Me is one of the best short novels I’ve read in a long while. 

The narrator, a fifty-something author, unsettled by an encounter at a hotel, remembers being 17 and falling in love with Thomas, a fellow high school student in a small town in France in 1984. Their relationship is brief and kept secret because of societal norms and expectations. It affects the rest of their lives in different ways, elegiac and tragic. It also affected me as a reader, both immersing me completely in the narrative and the mood and prompting my own recollections. It is a wonderful book to read in one sitting. 

What I really loved about Lie With Me is its ambiguity. There are enough hints throughout to make you wonder whether this is a work of fiction or a memoir. The narrator tells you that he is an accomplished liar in one moment and in the next highlights the clarity with which he remembers a look or a feeling nearly forty years later. Looking up Philippe Besson after finishing, I lamented the fact that I can’t read French and came across a recent short interview in The New Yorker where he says “I wanted to write a sadness.” And there is great sadness, judgemental society, homophobia, repression, loss of innocence and love. 

Lie With Me will invite comparisons with Call Me By Your Name, which I haven’t read, only seen the film but, together with the fact that Molly Ringwald translated it, I hope this will lead to a wide readership the book deserves. I also hope that it will lead to further translations of Besson’s novels into English.

My thanks to Penguin and Netgalley for the opportunity to read Lie With Me.
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This is a beautiful short novel, working through first love / sexual awakening and onto the loss and betrayal of youth. I was previously unaware of Besson, and only after did the meta-textual elements come to my attention; the suggestion that this may (or may not) be based on the author’s experiences unexpectedly hit me like a punch (and i now want to read novels referred to in the later stages of the book).

Told from the perspective of the adult looking back on his experiences, and later questioning his own reliability (memoir? Novel?), the emotional and physical connection to his younger self is palpable. If initially it feels a little “call me by your name”, the diversions Besson takes on the way set it apart - this is a superior novel in my mind.

That Molly Ringwald is now a translator is a surprise too...!
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This was so convincingly written that I'm still not entirely sure that it is fiction. Nevertheless Lie With Me is a beautiful novella from beginning to end. Though at times I did feel that the text was oddly old fashioned when it came to depicting sexual encounters I do understand some liberties may have been taken in translation. That said I did think that the translative work was phenomenal, allowing what must be truly poetic prose shine through in any language. Quite frankly I'll be very surprised if it isn't adapted for film in future.
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A sad story of a wasted life and a potential for love which is drained away - but while homophobia is the most acute obstacle in the book, class differences and economic considerations, though understated, also play a part. 

Written as a memoir, the narrator recalls his past love for Thomas and analyses it from the mature standpoint of his present. It's intimate and captures the awkwardness and obsessions of youth, the all-encompassing headiness of first love - shaded by the future in proleptic style.

Besson captures the dynamics of erotic love, the tides of power, the willing submission, the elusive nature of the beloved. This is a short read, easily completed in a few hours - and I'd say it benefits from an intense immolation in its heated atmosphere. By the end, Thomas had achieved a kind of tragic intensity for me: 'it's a fear of himself too. A fear of what he is.'

(I've posted a fuller review on Goodreads)
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Lie With Me is a novel about a first love and looking back at the past. A chance encounter in a hotel makes Philippe, a writer, think back to his teenage years in the 80s and the secret love between him and his classmate Thomas. Philippe reflects on how he was then and how Thomas saw him, particularly how Thomas saw that they were destined to go in different directions in life.

This short novel is lyrical and reflective, self-consciously about writing and memory. Its length gives it a real focus, with the sense of being told a very specific story from someone's life rather than a wider narrative, and this brings it an intimacy that suits the love story and personal reflection at its heart. Comparisons with Call Me By Your Name and the fact the English translation of this French book is by Molly Ringwald will bring added interest to this short novel that can be read in one sitting, and you could imagine it as a film, with a backdrop of French countryside and 80s fashion.
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