Cover Image: Lie With Me

Lie With Me

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Member Reviews

Lie With Me is a stunning short story about the first true love of two teenage boys in 80's rural France and its tragic endings. A chance encounter brings back Philippe's memories of falling in love with Thomas.

The story is told simply but with passion and love and moves through Philippe's childhood of being different to his peers, being thought of as the clever one but at home failing to live up to the standards set by his older brother and the expectations of his father, to the present as a well respected & famous author.
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A deeply moving short novel about love, passion, and loss. Exquisitely written and translated. This is the kind of story that lingers long after you've put the book down. It tells the story of a writer looking back at his first love, and lets us in to the intimate details of his deep passion for a boy who may have felt the same desire, but had difficulty expressing it. Besson writes with a poetic sparseness that allows for an emotional intensity to sneak up on you and grab hold.
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When I first started reading this book I thought it wasn't for me.  I continued reading and was glad I did.  I loved following the story of Phillipe and Thomas which really is one of a love lost.  I wonder just how many people make decisions about their future happiness on the prejudices of others.  I felt quite sad at the end.  This was a wonderful powerful story, well written and very thought provoking.
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Lie With Me by Philippe Besson
This novella by French writer Philipe Besson is a beautiful evocation of the devastating power of first love.  This is the story of Philippe and Thomas who, at 17, fall in love with each other.  They appear to understand from the outset that this love, beset as it is with the problem of being gay and in love in the 1980’s, is transient.  
Other people have compared this book to Sarah Winman’s wonderful Tim Man and I can see that there are comparable themes dealt with through a similar lyrical prose.
The tale is articulately told by a writer of great power and it is highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publishers and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review.
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The story is narrated by esteemed writer Philippe, whose chance encounter with a stunning young boy plunges him in to recollections of his youth and blistering first love: Thomas Andrieu. It is a passionate and lovelorn account of desire, shame, regret, longing and identity – a short, though sweet and shattering tale of love and loss. It is not without remarkable similarities to the much-adored sensation Call Me By Your Name – the writer of which has described Besson’s work as ‘stunning and heart-gripping’. Besides the mirrorings within the plot itself (two young men; a secret, seemingly fatalistic romance), there is also a 1980s setting and an overarching tone of palpable, near-agonising nostalgia.

It should not, however, be regarded merely as an imitation. It is a valuable testimony in and of itself – an essential contribution to the regrettably sparse LGBTQ+ narratives within literary fiction. Its allusions to the HIV crisis (which Besson himself terms a ‘massacre’) are particularly harrowing, and one of the most striking elements of the work. Aside from this, Besson also presents affectionate meditations on writing as an artform, as well as subtly puissant illustrations of culture and class (what else would you expect from a French artist?)

... Ultimately, Lie With Me is a highly readable and heartbreaking coming-of-age story, a tiny testimony of time, tenderness and torment. It is deeply human, touchingly romantic and, as alluded to previously, greatly important in the struggle towards greater diversity in the literary world. Highly recommended for anyone who loves Call Me By Your Name, of course, but also for anyone who adores romance, drama, candour and softly pretty prose – and all within a work you can consume in a single sitting.

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I thought this book was the French version of Call me by your name. And in a way you could say it's Call me by your name: first, young love; unfulfilled love; life altering with its "what ifs"; just not as hypnotic and intense.
Lie With Me is written in a totally different register: so full of tenderness. And heartbreak. Calm yet powerful, slowly sneaking up on you with devastating effects. A lost battle between love and duty, resignation in front of society or better said in front of what one thinks his role in society is; with its array of consequences. Is it moral?
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Simple ,elegant sparsely written poignant story of a first love. A love ,that in the time and place of it occurring couldn’t speak it’s name so was conducted furtively in case society judged it . The narrator is looking back on this after forty years having had a chance encounter with a young man who looks just like Thomas, his first love. It’s a lovely short novel that reads like a memoir and will move you whatever your sexual orientation . 
I have looked up Philippe Besson and will read more of his translated work . Thank you for letting me read this gorgeous book before it’s British publication
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What a beautifully written book.  There are several references to the work of Marguerite Duras in the book itself, and the writing really did remind me of the lyrical spareness of her writing, and also the ability to transport you into an almost breathless other world.  The narrator, now a famous writer, sees a stranger who turns out to be related to a man he had a brief, secret relationship with as a teenager - a man who was, possibly, the love of his life, but whom he lost contact with as they went their separate ways as their school life ended and the times were such that they didn't even seem to consider the possibility of being together openly.  Very atmospheric and rather sad, this book reminds you of a time when for some true love dare not speak its name.
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This short novel is a tale of first love and sexual awakening which is universal in its appeal. Now in his fifties the narrator, a writer, tells of how, as a 17 year old he had a crush on a fellow pupil Thomas . The affair is brief and passionate but Thomas never seems to fully give of himself and inevitably it ends. The narrator goes on to be a writer and to accept and write about his homosexuality but Thomas' future is less auspicious. I'm still not clear about whether it is memoir or fiction but does it matter?

I love this book which is full of longing and love. The translation seems to be very good but I have to confess that I'll be buying a copy in the original french. This is a book which will stay with you whether you are male or female, gay or straight. Superb. Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC.
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This is a sad, poignant and well written book about two seventeen year old boys at a senior school in a French village, discovering each other physically and falling in love. This is 1984 and their ‘affair’,  which is passionate and emotional, must be kept hidden.  If you remember your first love, you’ll find that this reflects the feelings and emotions that you once had, and you can’t help but feel involved with all the pleasures, pain and angst the boys go through, whatever your sexuality.
The story then moves on more than twenty years, and again, you feel the emotion in the writing.  I don’t want to give away what was happening at this time or when the story moves on another nine years, but it really pulls at your heartstrings and I recommend you read this fairly short but absorbing book.
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Philippe Besson's award-winning short novel Lie With Me is published for the first time in the UK this week, translated from French by Molly Ringwald. I snuck this in as my first book of September after receiving an advanced digital copy from @penguinukbooks via NetGalley and it has left me broken.⁣
The story begins with an unnamed famous writer reflecting on an intense love affair during his teenage years at a small French high school, after a chance encounter with a stranger who bears a striking resemblance to the boy he knew as Thomas. After an intense, exciting and sometimes joyful chapter set in 1984, the story move swiftly across four decades to its heartbreaking conclusion.⁣
I won't reveal too much more as I don't want to spoil the story for anyone but on a personal note, I found so much of this book relatable having spent my teenage years growing up secretly gay in a rural area (albeit a decade or so later than the characters here).⁣
This is a must-read for fans of Call Me By Your Name, in fact that book's author André Aciman describes Lie With Me as "stunning and heart-gripping".⁣
Lie With Me by Philippe Besson is published in the UK by Penguin Books on Thursday 5th September.⁣
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• I told myself that you understood. It was love, of course. And tomorrow, there will be a great emptiness.

Never have I ever thought that I would fall in love with another French author after Mathias Malzieu, but I did. Philippe Besson managed to steal my heart with the first novel by him I’ve ever read. 
I requested this book on NetGalley totally out of the blue, after days and days of social isolation because you know… social anxiety intensifies. I was attracted mainly by the fact that it was included in the LGBT+ section of the website and I am a fan of this kind of literature; I find it very interesting and when it’s well written also teaches a lot about a portion of the community that has a lot to say and to give to those who want to listen. So many thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books (UK) for sending this E-Arc to me, because I found love, apparently. 
I admit I approached this little novel, less than 150 pages, with discretion because I was afraid it was going to turn into a copy of Call Me By Your Name, something I have grown to dislike (don’t hate me, please). I am so glad it didn’t. I am so glad the author managed to capture me from the very first line and steal my heart immediately after. I discovered a little jewel and I gave my 5/5 stars rate for the fourth time this year – yay me.
This is the story of love and heartbreak and it might sound lame and seen already, it might sound like something that will never surprise you or get past the wall in your heart, but believe me when I say this is on a whole other level. 

We follow the story of a young man who falls in love, who gets betrayed, who keeps on loving and waiting, but that ends up heartbroken when life decides it’s useless to keep on playing with humans. We follow a story that is being told not only to us readers, but to someone specific. An apology. An “I love you, sorry for being too afraid to say it” kind of story. 

It might sound cheesy and definitely out of my alley, probably something that you, my dear visitor, might not enjoy as well, but let me tell you. Let me praise every single bloody comma of this novel, because I gave it five stars for  a reason. Several reasons, actually, but I will condense them in a big massive unique one, so bear with me a while longer. 

I found a magical prose, in this book; Besson managed to get hold of my attention from the very first line and sucked me up in a tornado of emotions and thoughts that together allowed me to picture the situation as if I was part of it. It’s an evocative and careful writing style the one Philippe Bessons uses, because he chose to tell a story of the heart and when it comes to heart, the matter is always fragile. Besson style is also naked; he never uses pompous metaphors nor he lies to make his reality more acceptable and tolerable. He’s very straightforward and never weavers. 
In this way, Philippe Besson’s characters are human, realistic and relatable. The reader can’t help but put themselves in their shoes at least once throughout the book. It’s hard to not see ourselves in our writer, that has loved and lost and didn’t forget. It’s hard to think that Thomas has been a selfish minion, when you see him through the main character’s eyes. It’s hard to not feel a little trapped and lost like Thomas did. It’s hard to not be angry at him and then feel lonely and forgive every single mistake and time he’s been quiet and chose to turn away rather than stay. In a nutshell, it’s hard not to feel human when you read this book. 
What left me with a little bit of bitterness is what happens between him and his love interest. I hoped up until the very end, I even turned the last page hoping to find something like a second chance for them both but I ended up closing the book. Somewhere in my mind a voice reminded me that a lot of time life is not lenient, life doesn’t give second chances, and I suffered in my little corner with the main character. I had a minute of total quietness and I felt like him, sitting at his desk when he finished typing his novel on laptop. When it realized it was over, and all that was left was the taste of a love long gone and the bittersweet aftertaste of a memory that’s been kept secret for a long time.
I loved this book, and I have nothing more to say besides: read it. It will surprise you and it will stick with you for a long time. On this feeling, it reminded me a lot of Montpelier Parade (K. Geary) and kind of gave me the same vibes, so if you read that novel and loved it as much as I did, you will enjoy this one as well even though the topics are completely on two different planets. You won't regret it, believe me.

If you want to know more, please have a look at my review that you can find on my blog.
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This book was quite simply beautiful. I think I may have held my breath throughout the entire novel. 
A very simply told story of the great teenage love affair of the narrators life. From watching Thomas across the playground, to Thomas initiating contact to the sex that occurs within hours, it is exciting, erotic and yet still a coming of age study of young manhood, sexuality and learning that adult paths diverge and the level playing field of school, which keeps children of all backgrounds and abilities together for so many years is fleeting. 
The novel is primarily told from the narrators perspective, as events unfold in the mid 1980’s in a sleepy French village; but also from his meeting aged 40 a young man who is the image of his former lover, Thomas. 
I read this book in one sitting and was so sad to reach the end of it.
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Let's get this bit over and done with. Yes, it's translated by Molly Ringwald - she of The Breakfast Club - but, tbh, I hardly noticed that it wasn't naturally written in English so I guess it's a big thumbs-up from me with regard to her translating skills. As to her interpretation, well, I have no idea, I can't read the original to compare.
Secondly, this book is only split up into a few chapters, each depicting a time change. Indeed, chapter two starts at about 67% but, each chapter is split up into sections which are easily identified, so there are natural breaks for you to pop the kettle on or whathaveyou! If you think of each chapter as a Part and the breaks as chapters then you'll get on just fine.
So, famous author Philippe is being interviewed about his latest book at a hotel. He looks up and sees a familiar face, one from his past. This triggers a long trip down memory lane as we go back into his past, his schooldays, to the time he met Thomas who he went on to love and lose. It's beautiful, it's tragic and heartbreaking, at the same time, completely intimate. Forbidden love - indeed, the love that dare not speak its name - at school, in the 80s, in a rural part of France. The dice did not fall well for young Philippe and his first love. And then, so many years later, to see that familiar face. And what that meeting triggers. Oh my days! 
How much of this book is real, maybe none, maybe parts, maybe more, I don't know but the author has definitely written from the heart. Whether names and events have been changed to protect the innocent or if none of this really happened, well, it doesn't matter. What matters is that all the way through it felt real. It came alive from each and every page. The love, the secrecy, the what if... The knowing that what they had was fleeting as Philippe was never going to stay and Thomas couldn't leave... Gosh was I in a right mess when I finished the book. Reminded me of how I felt when I read The Front Runner (Patricia Nell Warren) for the first time. It's catapulted itself into my top 10 books of all time (and I read more than 300/year and am quite old already so it has a lot of competition) and is one that I will definitely re-read - a much shorter list. 
I almost wish I was more proficient in French than just my O'Level so that I could read this story exactly as the author wrote it. Maybe one day...
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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I read this novel in advance of publication through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

If you prefer novels with explosions and action heroes or overwrought prose like some I have reviewed recently, this novel is not for you. 

Translated from the French by Molly Ringwald, this is a novel that starts even before you realise that it is the novel you are reading, and is written with understated prose, weaving a simple story with extraordinary dexterity and aplomb.

The tale is written in the first person by a well-known author, looking back over his life, and in particular his relationship in his teens with another boy and how that relationship affects the remainder of their lives. The layers of wisdom and emotion that are portrayed through simple words, elegantly told, create a level of sophistication that few authors ever obtain. Brilliant.
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A beautifully written novel narrating the love affair between Philippe and Thomas set in the 1980’s. They meet at school. Philippe is intelligent and shy whereas Thomas is quiet, handsome and popular with the girls.  

Philippe is attracted to Thomas and can’t keep his eyes off him. Thomas invites Philippe out for lunch he explains that he cannot fight his feelings for him, this is the start of their sexual liaisons, meeting up secretly afraid of other people’s homophobia.

This is such a beautiful moving memorable story. Although it is a short novel, it is full of emotion and passion and will tug at you’re heart strings!! I read it feeling the overwhelming emotions of first love, the words jumped out of the page straight to my heart, the ending made me quite tearful!!

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy in exchange for a review.
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I wasn't sure what to expect of this short novel - the endorsements from other writers, the prizes and the fact it is translated by Molly Ringwald (yes, her of 'Breakfast Club' fame and a personal favourite of mine) all seemed to suggest that it was worth a go.

This is the story of a love affair between two teenage boys at school in France in 1984.  Much of the early part of the novel is set in this time period as the boys become involved in a relationship and grapple with first love.  The narrator, Phillipe, then leaves the small town and we see him in his future life as a famous writer.  A chance encounter with a young man outside a hotel many years later brings the past back into sharp focus for Phillipe and we see how that first love affair has shaped the lives of the two lovers.

It's a beautifully written account of a first, passionate relationship, made all the more poignant by the fact that this is a love that is frowned upon by 1980s French society at a time when AIDS was coming to the fore.  The need to hide their relationship impacts the two lovers and creates tragic circumstances.  It's a vividly rendered account of being in love for the first time, with all the insecurities and strong emotions that brings.  

I would recommend this novella to those who enjoy reading about first love, nostalgia and desire.  It also gives an interesting insight into the experiences of gay men who were forced to keep their desires secret even as they were facing the AIDS epidemic, although this isn't written directly as a comment on society; it is much more personal than that.  Phillipe is a frank, engaging and likeable narrator and you cannot help but be pulled along in his story.
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The big question about this book is whether it is fiction or autobiographical. Middle aged writer Philippe has a chance encounter with a young man in Bordeaux, which leads him to remember the short but passionate love affair with a boy from school when he was 17. The boy, Thomas, insisted that the relationship be kept totally secret, as he was afraid of people knowing he was gay. This is a short novel, beautifully written and totally heart wrenching. Thanks to NetGalley for a preview copy.
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Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

DNF @ 45%. I really tried with this one. It sounded like it would be something I would enjoy; two male teenagers who are in their final school year, swept up in a hidden romance and having to meet secretly in order to satiate their burning passion for each other. Sadly, and I admit I'm likely more to blame than the book, I had to finally give up at the almost halfway point after almost falling asleep twice. 

There's no doubt that this book is beautifully written, but the longwinded descriptive passages are just a little too wordy for me, instead distracting me from the meat of the story.  

This is a short novel, at only 160 pages, so perhaps I should have just pushed though to see what everyone is loving about this book. 
(As a sidenote, I have also not read Call Me By Your Name, which is another well-received book by the same author (that was also adapted into a movie). 

If I get the chance to go back and try to read this again at some point in the near future, I'll be sure to do.

The setting itself is glorious though. Being born in the 80s I tend to get a little nostalgic at times. It's a shame I couldn't enjoy the lyrical style writing. But for those who like Phillip Besson's previous novel  it's likely a no brainer to pick up.
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A beautifully written book about youth, first love and the shame of having to hide it.  For me it read almost as if it was a memoir, and it could be.  I did at times find it a little slow and very resemblant of Call Me By Your Name. It is still a book I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend to others. The tenderness and love that shines through this story should be felt by every person at least once in their life and no one should ever have to feel the shame of that bittersweet first love.
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