Cover Image: Lie With Me

Lie With Me

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Member Reviews

I loved this book!  
From the first sentences I knew I was reading a French novel. What is it that gives this special feeling?  The language is lyrical, the feelings are described without shame, the details of an inner world are given their due importance.  I love France and I very much liked this French view of the world of teenage love and sexual exploration.

Two boys, Philippe and Thomas, fall in love in rural France. They have to be cautious, careful, hidden. Even from themselves. 

Years later  Philippe, now a famous author, has a chance meeting with someone who brings this past story back to life. 

I loved everything about the writing - the descriptions, the conversations, the complex feelings described with great understanding and even love. There is no judgement - just acceptance and love. 

I also liked very much the theme of leaving home versus staying where you are. It was developed very naturally and gently and I felt it deepen my understanding of why some people leave, and others stay.
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This was a beautifully written memoir or autofiction book which I devoured in one sitting. The writing style was unlike anything I have ever read before and the prose is very memorable. I have a feeling this book will stay with me for a long time.
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A sensitive account of two teenage boys discovering their sexuality and the subsequent events. Gently told with exploration of prejudices they encountered.
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An emotive novel about first love and loss.  Beautifully written and subsequently translated from the original French text which flows well even in translation.   The descriptions of the French countryside transport the reader there.  It is a short book but packed with emotions and the difficulty of homosexual love in the early 1980s.
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A beautifully written love story. This is a really well written novella about the love between 2 boys.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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Lie With Me, Philippe Besson

Genre: LGBTQIA, Literary Fiction

When I started this I wasn't sure if I'd like it, the description is pretty short on info, but its not a long read and something just drew me to it. 
I thought for maybe the first 25% I'd made a mistake, I didn't really like the way it read, mostly long monologues by the author interspersed with short snippets of dialogue between him and Thomas. 
I struggle with that kind of read, for me dialogue telling the story works best, the show not tell approach, and yet as I continued I became engrossed in what was happening, worried for the boys, emotionally invested in the story. First Love is hard, and what they had and the need for secrecy made it harder. 
I appreciated as I read more that actually this approach was the best way to tell the story and by the end I was in tears, its so incredibly sad. 

I wasn't – still aren't – sure if this was really an autobiography, the book is dedicated to Thomas Andrieu, the name of Phillipe's lover, and set in the village where he grew up. Someone on goodreads says its actually autofiction, short for autobiographical fiction, or fictional memoir. Apparently that's very popular in french fiction. 
If even a bit of it is true then what a sad tale, I'm so incredibly sorry for what the characters went through. 

Whatever, its an amazing story, very moving and I'm so glad I did read it. Even if it made me cry at the end. 
Its a story that could be mirrored today, but back in the 1980's homosexuality was still very much hidden by far too many people, too scared to live their lives the way they wanted, and sometimes I'm not certain we've really progressed that much. 
Though we like to think we are liberal minded just think of the furor when a footballer, or someone in another popular “mans” sport comes out. Think of the homophobic chants on the terraces, the people facing abuse every day. If you live in a small village or town think of how hard it is to be different, how just maybe its easier to live a lie, rather than face daily contempt and bigotry, possibly within ones own family....One day. 
Anyway, I understood why there was all the secrecy but at the end all I could feel was how sad, the loss of potential happiness, the lives that could have been lived, the happiness Thomas and Phillipe could have had, and that's kind of why it made me so choked, so sad. Just the waste of lives that never had a chance. 

Stars: Five, despite my misgivings its an incredible read. 

ARC via netgalley
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This is a fantastically evocative novel, albeit a very slim one, about homosexual love in France in the 1980s. It sounds cliche but the narrator falls in love with a boy he thinks is out of his reach; he fantasises about him and the more he does this, the more isolated he becomes from reality. However, one day, the boy approaches him - and what begins is a sexual relationship which changes both boys' lives.

Molly Ringwald's translation is excellent - it captures life in provincial France; the issues the boys would have faced, not just from others, if they found out, but from themselves as well. As the novel develops, the boys' separation increases. Years pass and the ending, although very sad, is probably all too true for many people around the world in the 21st Century.

Philippe Besson's novel is beautiful. At times, it is a little unclear, and perhaps implausible, but overall, a really good, thought-provoking read.
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A short and heart-breaking story of the love between teenagers Philippe and Thomas, that changes them both and shapes their futures. When they go separate ways, decades go past without any knowledge of the other. But a chance meeting opens up old stories…

A beautiful translation - I loved the page with the varying description of seven slightly different interpretations of love – the translation is smooth and natural, great credit to Molly Ringwald for such flawless work.

Highly recommended, sad, and a heart-breakingly beautiful piece of writing.
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The author is quoted as saying “I wanted to write a sadness.” He has certainly achieved that in the most elegant, graceful and moving manner. This is the story of a secret first love between two teenage boys, one of whom realises that they have no future together. 

The novel opens with a chance meeting between the narrator, Philippe, a successful novelist, and a young man, Lucas, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Philippe’s first love, Thomas. This prompts Philippe to recount the events of 1984, when he was seventeen and Thomas eighteen. Philippe was a studious and clever boy, son of a teacher. Thomas was a farmer’s son and resigned to the fact he too will become a farmer and be contained within his current environment. Very early on in their relationship Thomas says, “….you will leave and we will stay.” Throughout that summer they conduct a clandestine relationship which is described in poignant detail. Thomas, in particular, is scared of their association being discovered. 

When the narrative moves to the present day and Philippe’s encounter with Lucas, who actually is Thomas’ son, we gain a further understanding of how Thomas has led his life. The secrets he has kept and the sacrifices he has made. The ending is so, so, heart-breaking.

The novel vibrates with loss and unbearable yearning. It reflects on a love which, at the time, must remain hidden and the sorrow that creates. It may or may not be a memoir but is it searingly beautiful with the most lyrical of prose. The translation from the original French is stunning.

Thank you to NetGalley and John Murray for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Lie With Me is the gorgeous story of Philippe and Thomas who fall in love but have to keep their relationship secret as the 1980s were not exactly kind to the LGBT community. 

Years later Philippe bumps into someone who looks exactly like Thomas: his son.

When the past meets the present Thomas begins to confront all of his unanswered questions that have plagued his life and his career.

I really loved Lie With Me. I won’t lie, I initially wanted to read it because it had been translated by Molly Ringwald (and I love Molly Ringwald) but this became irrelevant when you feel the pulse and the heart of this writing ooze from every page.

It is beautiful.

Read it now.

Lie With Me by Philippe Besson is available now.

For more information regarding Molly Ringwald (@MollyRingwald) please visit

For more information regarding Penguin (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit
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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book as I went in more or less blind.

It’s written like a memoir entirely in first person. I’m not even sure of the name of the main character so I’ll call him Philippe. It felt autobiographical. 

The writing is quirky with the story following the thought process of Philippe as he remembers falling in love in his youth with the quiet and enigmatic Thomas. Thrown into the story of young and secret love is observations about Philippe’s life in France in the 1980s. Helping at the harvest and making cognac. Going to church against the wishes of his father. Holidaying at St Georges De Didonne.  It’s beautifully observed. 

Young love is hard and mostly heartbreaking. The anguish of Philippe and Thomas is oh so painful and oh so doomed. I’m left with a sad heart and a feeling of wanting to watch The Wounded Man.and Call Me By Your Name.
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An unforgettable, exquisite and powerful award winning French novel by Philippe Besson, translated by the famous actress, Molly Ringwald, that reads and feels like the most intimate of memoirs. For such a short novel, it is achingly beautiful, lyrical, and intensely heartbreaking, a portrayal of the emotional, heady feelings of first love. A fragile, forbidden, repressed covert gay relationship set in the 1980s in a rural small town in France. Philippe is having a tough time in high school for being smart and perceived as effeminate, and drawn towards the more popular Thomas Andrieu, a farmer's boy with his future life mapped out in front of him. He has little idea that Thomas feels the same way about him until the two have lunch and embark on a sex driven affair that will haunt and have everlasting repercussions.

Philippe and Thomas are under no illusions, they both know right from the very start that their relationship is temporary and will not endure, but this in itself lends a passion, poignancy and urgency to their love. Years later, in the present, Philippe is a well known writer, who encounters a young man that inescapably reminds him of his first love, Thomas's son, Lucas, from whom he learns of Thomas's life after school and his family. This is a painfully tragic, profoundly moving and eloquently expressed story of hatred, thwarted love, loss, homophobia, regrets, masculinity, memory and class that will stay with you long after you have finished reading the last page. Highly recommended big time! Many thanks to Penguin UK for an ARC.
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This is very short, more of a novella. There are no sub-plots, just the basic story of a love affair between two adolescent boys and how it affects their respective later lives. There is an ambiguity as to whether it is autobiographical or not. Thomas continues to torture himself and hides his true nature, whereas Philip comes out and has a successful life as an author. The translation by Mollie Ringwald, mostly flows well, although I did find one or two awkward sentences. I found the story poignant and believable.
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This is a book which is gentle and deeply sad. The first stirrings of love between to male school pupils could have led to a lifelong relationship. But that doesn't happen. It is not just social pressures or parental expectations that stop the affair maturing. One of the boys,Thomas, is unable to square the relationship with his expectations of himself and he walks away. The reader is led to believe that that is the end and the two get on with their lives but it has not ended. Both harbour regrets as their lives move on and Thomas tries the ultimate denial of his feelings by marrying and having a  
son. Then the perfect climax as his erstwhile lover meets his adult son. This story is deeply emotional and beautifully handled.
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Lie With Me is a touching and raw portrayal of first love and all it entails, with all of its many highs and lows. The novel is framed as a recollection, and this gives it such a nostalgic feel, which also makes it all the more tragic when you realise how it all ends. The story is set in France in 1984 and it focuses on 17 year old Philippe, as he falls in love with a fellow student in his school, Thomas. The two quickly form a secret relationship, both physical and emotional, although there is never an explicit declaration of love, it's obvious that the two have a very unique bond which proves to be life changing and memorable for both of them. 

Situations force them to part, with Philippe heading out into the world as he has always been a brilliant student and destined for great things and Thomas choosing to seek work abroad. The decision to part isn't so much a decision but something which has always seemed inevitable to both of them, they can't see it lasting so they make the most of the time they did have. There's a particularly beautiful passage of the last time they see each other and Philippe is taking a photograph of Thomas, and he simply smiles but it's like a goodbye. 

Years after their parting, Phillipe sees a young man who bears a striking resemblance to Thomas and so runs after him. What follows is a moving view into what happened to Thomas in the intervening years and what his life has been like. 

The whole way through the book feels so genuine and gorgeous, I can't describe it in words exactly but Lie With Me will stay with you and make you feel connected to the characters experiences as if they were your own. It's a rare piece of work which can make you feel so strongly for characters and situations you've never been in but Besson is such a talented writer he makes it happen just so.
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It’s hard to put into words books that mess you up quite like this. In only about 150 pages, Philippe Besson decided to screw me over not once, but three times. This is a “do not go into this book expecting a happy ending” book. It’s one to read when you’re in the mood for an emotional battering. It is, quite honestly, bruising.

Lie With Me is a semi-autobiographical novel of a youthful love affair in 1980s France. The two boys, Thomas and Philippe, are subsequently separated following their bac exam, by years and miles, until Philippe happens across Thomas’ son in Bordeaux. But it is, in its way, a tragedy.

I probably cannot do justice to this book in describing the emotions it evokes. Even having given myself time to think it through I’m not sure how to discuss them. There’s a sense of yearning throughout the book, a sense that will ring so true for gay readers, like the book is somehow looking into your own heart and speaking what it finds there. It gets it in a way that will leave you breathless.

But there’s also an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness elicited by this book. The kind that makes you angry for what has been stolen from generations before. It’s like taking that pain and anger and putting it on the page – it’s not meant to have a happy ending, it’s meant to make you feel uncomfortable, in a way, to make you face up to the loss of generations of gay people. To make you realise (or remember) that this loneliness and hopelessness was the reality for so many people.

I don’t have a lot more to say about this book, mostly because you have to read it to understand for the most part. But it is definitely one that’ll stay with you for a long time, with just the echoes of the emotions you felt while reading.

Which is to say, go read this book.
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What worked for me here was the story. This novella moves quickly - without ever feeling like it is just a rushing plot. I very much wanted to know what would happen next; what would become of the young lovers... and what would happen later on. 
Told in 3 parts: 1984, 2003 and 2016, the book spends the bulk of the time in 1984, recounting the love story between the narrator, Philippe, and his classmate and first love, Thomas. Parts 2 and 3 shorter, but man, they are both equally intense and emotionally heavy. No spoilers, but the Part 3 made the whole book for me - I'm just, sunk. 
What barely worked for me was the narrator. I just could not connect to his voice, it was too... cold? intellectual? blasé? for a book about a man recollecting first love lost. There were these diatribes about his unrelated life/professional experiences and tastes and I just didn't... care? I suppose that might be how certain people reflecting on the past would tell their story, but it undercut my investment in the narrator. 
There is an element, not of unreliable narrator, persay - but some sort of metatextual interrogation on fact v. fiction and the lies we tell ourselves in reflection. This element was beautifully done and it comes to a head in Part 3 and the whole interaction just thrilled me. 
The prose is also lovely and I wouldn't have known it was a work in translation if not for the big fuss made about Molly Ringwald being the translator (Iona would approve). 

It is a beautiful story and my thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the arc to review.
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Such a clever title for this slim volume of forbidden love. 
Memoir or fiction or a mixture of both, it is a compelling read of two boys coming of age. 
Usually a story centring on two people, one subject and no subplots can be a little too bland, but Lie with Me needs to be told exclusively,so intensefing  the secret, involvement they shared.  The concise storytelling had  more impact than diluting with other elements.  Told with real passion and honestly, I raced through to the inevitable end.
A brilliant, poignant piece of writing
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A fascinating read about a  hidden young love affair in the early 80s between two young men. It was written from the heart, and I found it heart breaking. I am so pleased that times have changed and maybe if they had met today they could still be together.
 I was taken back to that era by the wonderful writing and the description of the clothing and music. It is a rather short book but one that will stay with me for a very long time.
Thank you netgalley and penguin.
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Lie With Me is the award-winning, bestselling French novel by Philippe Besson about an affair between two teenage boys in 1984 France and has been  translated by Molly Ringwald. 

This book maybe under 160 pages but it's a strong story about a love affair between two young men in the 80's. 
The main characters are Philippe and Thomas. They came together in the last year of school  and become very close. They have to hide their relationship from others who are close to them and meet each other in secret.

It's full of exquisite passages expressing the young men's longing, burning love and heartbreak throughout their young lives together. Sadly Thomas died at the age of fifty and this wonderful book was dedicated to him. 

So glad things have changed now and we don't need to hide same sex relationships from others. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Scribner for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
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