Book Review

Lie With Me – Philippe Besson

Today’s review is of the exquisite Lie With Me by Philippe Besson, translated from French by Molly Ringwald (yes, THAT Molly Ringwald). Many thanks to Penguin Books for my copy of the book which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

The award-winning, bestselling French novel by Philippe Besson about an affair between two teenage boys in 1984 France, translated with subtle beauty and haunting lyricism by the iconic and internationally acclaimed actress/writer Molly Ringwald.

We drive at high speed along back roads, through woods, vineyards, and oat fields. The bike smells like gasoline and makes a lot of noise, and sometimes I’m frightened when the wheels slip on the gravel on the dirt road, but the only thing that matters is that I’m holding on to him, that I’m holding on to him outside.

Just outside a hotel in Bordeaux, Philippe chances upon a young man who bears a striking resemblance to his first love. What follows is a look back at the relationship he’s never forgotten, a hidden affair with a gorgeous boy named Thomas during their last year of high school. Without ever acknowledging they know each other in the halls, they steal time to meet in secret, carrying on a passionate, world-altering affair.

Dazzlingly rendered in English by Ringwald in her first-ever translation, Besson’s powerfully moving coming-of-age story captures the eroticism and tenderness of first love—and the heartbreaking passage of time.

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REVIEW:

Lie With Me is the touching story of two young men on the cusp of adulthood, knowing that they are headed in very different directions. It isn’t a long book, but the depth of emotion it captures is wonderful.

In Thomas, we are presented with a character who is extremely reticent, and it feels like you never really get to know him, except perhaps through the eyes of his son, and I wonder if this reflects Philippe’s own thoughts on how well he really knew Thomas.

Philippe himself is a romantic soul, and this is echoed in the beautiful language in which the book is written. He is a young man who finds his own sexuality intriguing, and rather than being concerned about being considered different from his peers, he revels in this difference, happy to not be one of the pack – although this being 1980s France, he understands the wisdom in not announcing it to the world.

Lie With Me is presented as a novel, and throughout the book, the narrator, also a writer called Philippe, born in Barbezieux, takes pains to stress that he writes only fiction. However, the book reads as a memoir, and with many of the fictional Philippe’s books mirroring the titles of the author’s, you are left wondering just how much of Lie With Me is fiction and how much is fact.

I have read books translated from French before, but something has always seemed to be lacking, and the emotion of the book hasn’t always carried through. In Lie With Me, Molly Ringwald has created a beautiful, lyrical translation that flows so wonderfully and is overflowing with emotion.

Lie With Me isn’t a book filled with great drama and thrilling moments. Instead it is a beautiful coming of age story, and an exquisite love letter to a long lost love, perfect in its simplicity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

199634In 1999, Besson, who was a jurist at that time, was inspired to write his first novel, In the Absence of Men, while reading some accounts of ex-servicemen of the First World War. The novel won the Emmanuel-Roblès prize.

L’Arrière-saison, published in 2002, won the Grand Prix RTL-Lire 2003. Un garçon d’Italie was nominated for the Goncourt and the Médicis prizes.

Seeing that his works aroused so much interest, Philippe Besson then decided to dedicate himself exclusively to his writing.

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