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ARC Book Review: ‘Lie With Me’ by Philippe Bensson

Title: Lie With Me

Author: Philippe Bensson

Length: 148 pages

Publisher: Viking Books

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book has been one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I was thrilled to get an early copy, but did it live up to my expectations?

Just outside a hotel in Bordeaux, Philippe, a famous writer, chances upon a young man who bears a striking resemblance to his first love. What follows is a look back to Philippe’s teenage years, to a winter morning in 1984, a small French high school, and a carefully timed encounter between two seventeen-year-olds. It’s the start of a secret, intensely passionate, world-altering love affair between Philippe and his classmate Thomas.

‘He says that he can no longer be alone with this feeling. That it hurts him too much… He might have wanted to check that he wasn’t wrong about me, but he has chosen to offer himself openly to me and to explain, in his own way, what has pushed him toward me at the risk of being compromised, mocked, rejected.’

Look, I’m going to be honest, this whole review is literally just going to be me declaring my love for this book. I loved this book. It not only met my expectations but exceeded them. I gave it 5 stars but I’d like to give it 10. I’d give it the stars, the moons, the galaxy! Ok Jack, reign it in.

THIS IS HOW ALL LOVE STORIES SHOULD BE WRITTEN. Did I say that loud enough? Do I need to repeat it? It was beautiful, complicated, simple, real, ethereal, sweet, emotive and powerful. It just captured everything teenage love should be, everything that it is. But on a much deeper level.

The writing is wonderful! Originally written in French and translated by the extremely talented Molly Ringwald, who does a fantastic job, it doesn’t lose any of its impact, romance or passion. The prose is so beautiful, and captures those feeling so well. I found myself crying throughout this book. In fact, all the quotes in this review made me cry. Seriously I was crying by page 23. Such beauty.

The clandestine meetings resume as before. Kisses on the body. Love in my bedroom. Everything in this room that belongs only to us. Everything that is incommunicable to the rest of the world.’

I love how it’s written, that Philippe is looking back on his time with Thomas. I loved the juxtaposition between the passion of the time and his retrospect of time. I was a little worried the book would lose its magic as the story moves onto 2007, then 2016 and becomes set in the present. But it truly doesn’t.

Both characters are fantastic. It’s so fascinating to be in Philippe’s head, watching him learn to accept his love he has for Thomas, whilst dealing with his own insecurities about the relationship, his ambitions in life. However, Thomas has become one of my all time favourite characters. There’s something about him. It’s his openness, yet his reserve. His feelings run so deep for Philippe yet are never truly expressed. It’s just wonderful. There’s his inner shame which become prevalent as the novel goes on. It’s a feeling so many in the LGBT community can relate too.

Now, let’s talk about that ending. It was sublime. It was perfect but so heartbreaking. I don’t want to give anything away, but I need that last page. It was such a real culmination of Thomas’s story. Please believe me when I say I cried like a baby. It was one of those books where I had to sit, take everything in, dry my eyes, then revel in the beauty of this book.

‘I just wanted to write to tell you that I have been happy during these months together, that I have never been so happy, and that I already know I will never be so happy again.

This book went from being one of my most anticipated reads, to being one of my best of the year, to one of my favourite books of all time. I can’t recommend this book enough. This book made me cry because of its sheer beauty, and it’s heartbreak.

Thank you to Vikingbooksuk, for gifting we with a copy in return for an honest, unbiased review. Out in the UK September 5th.

Until the next review

JTH

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