Lie With Me

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

I’m a huge fan of foreign books translated into English. Throw in Molly Ringwald as the translator of the book from the French, and I’m in. The book is fairly short, more like a novella, and goes from present to past as the narrator tells the story of his brief love affair with his school mate Thomas. While I enjoyed the story, it never really gripped me. But the ending is heartbreaking.
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Don't know how good the translation is because don't know French and haven't read the original work, but this story is good, though incredibly predictable. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.
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Imagine this, I’m sitting in a bar, people watching as one is wont to do. I see a man being interviewed by someone and wonder what is the story behind that. The man being interviewed seems disengaged but is all of a sudden transfixed. He calls out the name Thomas and runs out after someone. I am bewildered by what just happened. Almost done with my drink, I’m debating whether I should leave when the man from before props onto the empty seat in front of me. I am confused and curious and he just begins a story as if knowing that I was transfixed by the events I just witnessed. At first I have no idea where the story is going since all I can see is broad brushstrokes but soon a vibrancy comes to the picture. It is a vivacity unlike any that I’ve ever witnessed. It is a story that hooked me from the start, it made me realize why I love words and in the end I felt my heart wrung and tears cascaded down my face. I felt like I knew where the story would go, he had dropped hints throughout his tale, and yet I still wasn’t prepared for that ending. Suddenly, after sharing his story, the man stands up and leaves. This is the experience I went through in reading this book. It’s been described as the French Brokeback Mountain. It could be stripped to this comparison but it’s so much more than that. It’s a story that will remind you of your love of words, that will convey feelings and emotions that will reverberate in your heart. It’s just simply beyond words. I loved it so much. I couldn’t believe that someone could make themselves this vulnerable and share it with the world. I loved how he was able to transport me back to being a teenager and the heightened emotions we feel back them. He was such a great, comprehensive guide to his own past. This is a love story and it will break your heart. Make sure to read it!
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This best-selling French novel is easily compared to Call Me By Your Name because it also invites you to enter the mind of a 17-year-old boy recalling a transformative, passionate chapter of his life in the 1980’s, but I must say I enjoyed this book even more than Aciman’s. Lie With Me is short, a mere 180 pages, and sweet—not in a ripe apricot way, but in a tenderness that often comes attached to recalling a lost first love.

Lie With Me starts in recent years, when he runs into someone who looks strikingly like his lost high school love, sending him into a whirlwind of recollections about cultivating his secret relationship with Thomas, a boy from the neighboring rural, French town. As he recounts their story and his emotions at the time, he allows them to inform their estranged relationship for the following years (similar to Elio and Oliver’s forlorn, retrospective look in the past). It’s a novel about first love, first heartbreak, and how what is true never seems to leave you, even on a molecular level.

Lie With Me was published in April 2019 by Scribner books. I would recommend it to anyone who loved Brokeback Mountain and Call Me By Your Name:
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Philippe Besson writes of a pain and a passion so insurmountable in his latest masterpiece, Lie With Me, that its emotional impeccability is nothing short of surreal. This is the autobiographical novel in its most primal form, a beautiful confessional of the author and his long lost lover, Thomas, with whom he kindled a burning, ephemeral affair. The novel, told in three eras, opens with a fateful encounter in 2007, but then teleports us to France, 1984, where the boys meet as teenage students and spark a magnetic love that will weaken them to their body’s yearning for the other. In a retrospective more than 20 years later, Besson knows, as all gay men do, that this “necessity” — two bodies, two hearts, reaching to rapture — still lingered like a pheromone for the rest of their lives.

With curative detail, Besson siphons fresh blood from the most sensitive regions of his heart and lets free the most painful love story I’ve read in my entire life. I never knew I could fall in love with another man’s words as much as Paul Monette‘s but Besson’s touched me in my most impalpable places, so I can only imagine the sacrifices he made with his heart before sharing this story, our story, with the world. I hope he knows his generosity will not have been in vain, because it will save the lives of so many gay men who suffer the same solitude. I know this because it certainly saved me.

There wasn’t a single page of my copy that went without its fields of markings and annotations. Every word, every feeling, and emotion struck a deep, reverberating chord with my heart that it caused me actual pain to know other gay men had suffered the same defeatism as I had. It is a pathology exclusive to gay men that drives us to the darkest of places. This phrase, in particular, spoke to the entire 27 years of my life — a life spent free-falling, arms out and reaching for what I’ve only come to describe as intangible love:

    “I feel this desire swarming … I have to constantly contain and compress it so that it doesn’t betray me in front of others. Because I’ve already understood that desire is visible. … At the same time, it consumes me and makes me miserable, the way all impossible loves are miserable.”

    — Phillipe Besson, Lie With Me

Thank you once more, Philippe, for restoring faith in my heart for true love. And also, I must express my immense gratitude for the incredible Molly Ringwald — my spirit warrior since Sixteen Candles — for bringing this elegant novel to English translation. Philippe and Molly, we are so fortunate to have you both.
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I really wanted to like this, but I found myself so bored with it. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood for a quiet story like this, or the right audience--I think many other readers will find it contemplative and poignant, so I don't necessarily want to dissuade others from picking it up. 

The writing style was a big part of the reason this didn't connect for me, I think. It's a tale of two teenage boys embarking on a secret romance in the 80s, and the heartbreak of the author even decades after their separation. I couldn't help but think I should have a lot more feels about it all than I did, but the way it was written made it all feel very distant to me.

So, not for me, but I'd encourage other readers to pick it up--and also to DNF if you are bored with it. I kept going because it was short and I thought it it would get better, but it wasn't worth it.
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4.5, rounded up.

I am not ashamed to admit this left me teary-eyed with the ineffable sadness of the final pages, but the entire book had an almost galvanizing effect on me, since a lot of it hit very close to home ... as I suspect it will for many gay men of my generation. Although it's a story that will be familiar to many, Besson tells it in a perfunctory manner which proves exactly right for the material, and Ms. Ringwald (yes, THAT Molly Ringwald) does a terrific job in translating his prose into unfussy English. It remains peculiar that the author insists this is a novel, since it is clearly memoir (the book is even dedicated to the 'real' man it is about, and Besson does not even bother to change his name - or his own) ... and I wish that the book had retained the more literal title 'Stop With Your Lies', although I am sure 'Lie With Me' makes it sound sexier. It also made me want to investigate Besson's back catalog, as he mentions several within the book that sound equally intriguing. 

Sincere thanks to Netgalley and Scribner for an ARC of this book, in exchange for my honest review.
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A beautiful, gorgeous, heartbreaking, heartwarming, etc short novel. The words sound as cliche as I thought this book would be. Don't come here looking for something life-altering or for some new twist on a coming of age tale. Come and stay for the introspective, insightful vignettes into the life and love and loss of the narrator. I finished the e-book then immediately pre-ordered the physical book.

I read this in one sitting and highlighted many sentences and paragraphs, which I only do when something particularly moves me. For example:
And when you've been hurt once, you're afraid to try again later, in dread of enduring the same pain. You avoid getting hurt in an attempt to avoid suffering: for years, this principle will serve as my holy sacrament. So many lost years.

I loved the style that Besson wrote in - short, isolated paragraphs with some humor mixed in - and how it did not feel disjointed when time jumped forward. 

I just wish there were 100 more pages.

Also, Molly Ringwald did an amazing, stunning job with this translation! 

Thank you to #Scribner for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Lie With Me felt to me like a cross between Call Me By Your Name and Tin Man, but stronger and less heady than the former, and more bitter and perhaps more ambitious than the latter. Translated beautifully from the French by Molly Ringwald (yes, that Molly Ringwald), Lie With Me tells the story of a love affair between two teenage boys in 1984 rural France, narrated years later by Philippe with the kind of mature perception that only time can bring.

Nothing about this story is new; homophobia, class disparity, and shame all chart the course for this short novel, whose inherent tragedy makes itself apparent to the reader in an exchange between Philippe and Thomas, the latter of whom lays their dynamic out plainly the very first time they speak (“you will leave and we will stay”) – but it felt immeasurably fresh nonetheless. Probably most interesting is the sharp contrast between Philippe, whose candid narration reads as more of a confession than a monologue, and Thomas, who remains largely unknown except for the parts of himself that he allows Philippe to see. The character work is deceptively impressive, and Besson’s unrelenting attention to these characters’ similar and disparate vulnerabilities effectively cultivates an atmosphere of longing and regret and anxiety.

There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on that’s holding me back from the full 5 stars (maybe I should have read this in one sitting, I think that might be it), but this is a very strong 4.5, and one of the more accomplished novels that I’ve read recently. Ultimately it’s an intimate, erotic, sparse yet hard-hitting read that ends with one of the saddest sentences that I think I’ve ever read, and if that doesn’t make you want to rush out and read this 160 page book immediately, I don’t know what will.
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I don't know if there are enough words in the English language to translate how beautiful this book is.

This is a coming of age, a coming of sexuality, a coming into ones own book. It's been compared to Brokeback Mountain or Call Me By Your Name - and that's well deserved. 

This is the kind of book that changes lives. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Let me begin by saying that, as this is a review of the Ringwald translation: I typically don't read translations of novels where I already speak the original language, which is the case with this book. There are several reasons for that: translations rarely capture the nuance, translators (and editors) often omit key phrases, sometimes the translation is clunky and awkward or difficult to read, and, lastly, if I can read the original – why not just do that?

Ringwald's translation, as far as translations go, is very good. I read it in conjunction with the original French – reading the French first, and then the translation. There were some curious omissions in the text, although nothing overly relevant to the plot, and obviously nothing that would censor the gay subject matter of the book (otherwise, the translation would be very short). More than anything, I was surprised at the fluidity of the translation. I'm used to translators feeling like they need to over-explain every little cultural thing – Ringwald didn't do that. As far as translations go, I would say this is one of the best ones I've read (where I've been able to compare to the original, at least).

As for the book itself, I did not go into this expecting a happy book, or a happy ending. Such a thing typically doesn't occur within francophone literary conventions, and this was no exception. If you're looking for a happy ending, this would not be the book for you.

Besson is not one to shy away from difficult subject matters, and he presents the workaday homophobia of 1980s rural France in detail – the sort of homophobia that would drive one to repress one's true self in an attempt to live a normal life. He presents us with two characters, mirrors of himself and the man who inspired several of his other novels: Philippe and Thomas. Philippe is well aware that he is gay, but he is not yet able to say that out loud (in the original French: "Évidement, je « préfère les garçons ». Mais je ne suis pas encore capable de prononcer cette phrase."). He is nursing what he believes is a hopeless crush on Thomas – one which turns out to not be so hopeless.

What follows is a secret relationship. It starts from what Philippe believes to be a one-time hook up in the school locker room, but over time, it develops into a fully-fledged relationship. Besson is sure to underline Thomas's internalised homophobia, his fear of what he is and his anxiety at possibly being discovered (and to be sure, Philippe is not without anxiety at the idea of being discovered, either). Besson shows us that the Thomas that the rest of the world sees is not all there is to him. 
Besson does not shy away from discussing homophobia, rejection, or the AIDS crisis, which was already decimating gay communities in 1984. More than anything, it is a story about youth and love. Thomas knows from the beginning that Philippe will go on to leave their small town, and that he will stay, because of who he is.

There are three principal characters: Philippe, Thomas, and Lucas (Thomas's son), and the story is told over three separate years: 1984, 2006, and 2016. The 1984 chapter is the bulk of the story, where 2006 serves as the frame for the story – the novel opens with an interview in 2006, and then goes to a flashback in 1984, before going back to 2006. Finally, the story ends in 2016, with a conversation between Philippe and Lucas. Through Lucas, we find out how Thomas's life has gone since he and Philippe parted.

In that last conversation between Philippe and Lucas, Besson reveals that Thomas – and his relationship with Thomas – has inspired several of his novels. This, then, becomes an homage to Thomas and to their relationship, which Besson credits with helping shape him into who he is today.
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Thank you for an advanced readers copy of this book.  This was an absolutely beautiful story.  I know that this a novel, but it did not feel that way.  This felt like a memory that the author wanted to share and it very well might have been.  First love, secrets and so many elements are baked into this very short book.  So happy I got to read this.  It was unforgettable.
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“In the end, love was only possible because he saw me not as who I was, but as the person I would become.”
I am gutted.  This book was enthralled with every minute spent with this story.  Besson’s writing is superb and his story is heart-breaking.

Phillippe is a famous writer, being interviewed about his next book.  He notices a man across the lobby and is immediately taken back to his 17 year old self, heartsick in high school.  

Enter, our narrator, a 17 year old who is realizing he is hiding from his true self.  He seems to be a loner, quietly dismisses derogatory and homophobic comments from his peers.  He is studious, quiet, bookish type- not one to cause a scene. 

Thomas is an elusive, popular, beautiful person who rarely engages in anything substantive with his peers.  Yet, Thomas is revered by many.  Phillippe immediately connects and is deeply attracted to Thomas, but he is unsure what to do with these feelings.  

Thomas reaches out to Phillippe and things spark from there.  Intense, raw emotions come into play as the two explore who they are as individuals, their sexuality and what it means to enter adulthood in the early 1980s.    

“He says I’m a boy of books, from somewhere else”….. “I’m dying to see Coppola’s Rumble Fish, a sequel of sorts to The Outsiders…” I couldn’t help but giggle about Phillippe excitement about The Outsiders and Rumble Fish.  Teaching The Outsiders, I always love a good reference to the book or movie.  

Spoiler free reviews, always.  Towards the end of this book, I was broken.  Besson writes with thought, simplicity and reflection.  This story was woven so beautifully together.  Thank you to @Netgalley and @Scribner for an early review copy.  This book releases April 30th.
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LIE WITH ME by Philippe Besson is a stunning, beautiful portrait of teenage love that reverburates through an entire life. It is short, but will leave you breathless. The romance between Philippe and Thomas, two boys who experience their first loves together at age 17, is sexy, sad, and ultimately heartbreaking. I loved this book, and the translation by Molly Ringwald is perfect. I have seen many compare this to Brokeback Mountain or Call Me By Your Name, but I think it stands on its own and the beautiful writing, which is etherial and lyrical, make this particular story one that I won't soon forget.
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4.5 stars

There was so much packed into these short pages.  The writing is eloquent.  The story itself...timeless.  Who among us hasn't felt the thrill and angst of love that is at once somewhat forbidden, hard-earned, seemingly unrequited and painfully glorious.  There is such honesty, openness, introspection and self-awareness here.  It was raw and it was real, and I'm so very glad I read it.
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I recently saw Ellen Page on The Late Show give an impassioned plea to end the hate against the queer community. I was moved by her words and while reading this novella I kept thinking about them. How long has hatred left its indelible mark and perhaps changed the course of so many lives senselessly? Philippe Besson and Thomas Andrieu can be counted amongst that collateral damage. There was no hate crime or bullying per se but both were victims of a more persistent kind of hatred that relegated them to a clandestine relationship: intolerance. 

Philippe and Thomas should've been afforded the same privileges as their heterosexual counterparts without impunity. They should've been allowed the freedom to love and be loved without the need for courage or bravery to do so and Lie With Me is the story of how bigotry stymied that freedom and fear of reprisal stole their innocence.
It seems crazy to not be able to show our happiness. Such an impoverished word. Others have this right, and they exercise it freely. Sharing their happiness makes them even more happy, makes them expand with joy. But we're left stunted, compromised, by the burden of having to always lie and censor ourselves. This passion that can't be talked about, that has to be concealed, gives way to the terrible question: if it isn't talked about, how can one know that it really exists?
Lie With Me is poignant memoir that tells the story of Philippe's first love of a beautiful boy with a tragic soul. Told from memory in three parts, making it difficult to avoid the inclusion of later events and making the specifics of dialogue hazy, thus giving the reader a bit non-linear retelling but an emotive one nonetheless. The first part takes place in 1984 when they are seniors and comprises the bulk of the story. The second part takes place in 2007 when during an interview Philippe sees a boy outside a hotel that's the spitting image of Thomas, a boy who turns out to be his son, and the events of 2016 conclude the story.

Philippe is inquisitive, precocious and gobsmacked when Thomas approaches him. Thomas is popular but quiet and solemn, resigned to a life he knows will never bring him happiness. At 17 he's already incorporated secrecy and deception as his norm and at 18 those habits will forever taint them both. During their time together they do seemingly snatch a few moments of bliss and Besson captured the intensity of his feelings for Thomas as well as the optimism and folly of youth. I truly felt not only his physical desire for him but his steadfast belief that they would find a way to carve out a future together, despite evidence to the contrary.

I'm not sure what I expected from this book but I absolutely did not expect a memoir. That tangible connection tethered me to the reality of the oppressive prejudice that has been globally devastating to so many for far too long. Prejudice robbed these two boys of a life together, a life they deserved and left in its place a life lived inauthentically for one and the other struggling to give his heart to another after having it broken by his first love.

Besson's prose is lyrical, evocative and exceedingly French, in that it encapsulates the essence of experiencing life through the prism of an artistic eye. What fascinates me about this perspective is the uncanny ability to both see and experience life with gusto while also believing it's all going to end disastrously, or at the very least disappointingly. That dichotomous worldview is, in part, what made Lie With Me not only touching but memorable.
Those who have not taken this step, who have not come to terms with themselves, are not necessarily frightened, that are perhaps helpless, disoriented, lost as one is in the middle of a forest that's too dark or dense or vast.
Even though Lie With Me has a melancholy overtone that will probably only appeal to a niche market, I was beguiled by Besson's eloquence and I hope more of his works are translated into English, especially if this is representative of his work. If you are someone who can appreciate that not all romances end happily, give his words a chance to weave their magic.

An ARC was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Excellent story--as someone that felt an instant love like this, it really connected with me. My only complaint was I wish it had been a longer story! I was so invested. 5 stars!
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What a beautiful and haunting portrayal of the significance of first love, especially when that love is forced to be in hiding and the aftermath of that. I loved the format of this book and the perspective from which the author wrote it, it was incredibly interesting. So much desire, longing and heartbreak - you could feel it dripping from every page. This was a quick read, but one that stays with you. Thank you to Netgalley and Scribner for the ARC.
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I was initially interested in the book because actress Molly Ringwald translated the original French novel. Translated books are always tricky: the quality of the translation can make or break the quality of a novel. Ringwald did a fantastic job of capturing the lyrical prose of Besson. The relationship between the two main characters doesn't start off romantically, it's most physically and it's interesting to see how affected the narrator by this boy he met when he was 17. Even thought it was short, the story managed to be descriptive and not overwritten.
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"This feeling of love, it transports me, it makes me happy. But it also consumes me and makes me miserable, the way all impossible loves are miserable."

Philippe is a famous writer being interviewed at a hotel in Bordeaux when he sees a handsome man walk by. The man jars Philippe's memory, reminding him of his first love, when he was in his last year of high school in 1984.

Philippe is the studious one, shy yet fiercely intelligent. He has already been marked by his peers as "different"; he bears their shouted and whispered insults, and wants nothing more than to blend in. Thomas is quiet, rarely speaks yet is often spoken to, and is popular among his peers. He is handsome, so he catches the attention of many of the female students.

The two have never spoken, yet Philippe is inexplicably drawn to Thomas. He watches him, observes him, but doesn't think Thomas notices him (or even knows who he is), and Philippe is unsure of how he feels about that fact. Does he want Thomas to know what their peers think of him, the names they've called him?

One day, Thomas approaches Philippe. He fears that Thomas might have seen him staring, might want to beat him up. But instead, Thomas asks if he might want to go to lunch in town instead of eat in the school lunchroom. He agrees, but doesn't understand what Thomas wants from him. During lunch, Thomas tells him he is struggling with his sexuality, and he can no longer fight these feelings in silence.

When Philippe asks why Thomas has chosen him, he replies, "Because you are not like all the others, because I don't see anyone but you and you don't even realize it."

The two quickly fall into a secret relationship—mostly sexual, although there certainly are overtones of romance. Outside of their encounters, they pretend not to know each other, and make no move to declare their feelings for one another. Inherently, Thomas knows that when high school is done, Philippe will leave their small French town to make his way in the world, leaving Thomas behind. And despite the intensity of their unspoken feelings, both know that this is their trajectory.

Can we ever forget the raw emotions, the intensity, the longing of our first true love? How does that relationship affect the rest of our lives? In Lie with Me, Philippe Besson poignantly captures those feelings, the way every fiber of your being is affected, the way you want nothing more than that person and cannot bear the thought of being apart. And how you mourn the end of that relationship, how it feels like no pain you've ever experienced, so much more than your heart can bear.

Besson and Molly Ringwald, who translated the novel from the French, paints a beautiful, emotional picture of a man who has made something of his life as was always expected, but when he is reminded of his first love, reminisces about that glorious yet painful time, and how indelibly their lives have changed in the years since.

Lie with Me has been called "the French Brokeback Mountain," and while there are no cowboys, and this book didn't quite make me sob the way that movie did, there is a tremendous amount of poignancy, emotion, and beauty to be had in this story. Ringwald's translation felt flawless to me—quite often when I read translated novels I find some awkwardness in the syntax or the way some expressions are relayed.

"That singular moment. The pure urgency of it. There were circumstances—a series of coincidences and simultaneous desire. There was something in the atmosphere, something in the time and place, that brought us together."

What a gorgeous, moving book this was.

NetGalley and Scribner provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available! To be published April 30, 2019.
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