Monday, 10 December 2012

Book Review: Beautiful Lies

Beautiful Lies
By Clare Clark 
ISBN - 9781846556050

I'll be honest the stunning cover of Beautiful Lies was the only reason why I wanted to read the book. I don't normally read historical fiction. It reminds me too much of school and being forced to read the classics. But Clare Clark's fourth novel, Beautiful Lies, has proved all of those pre-conceived ideas wrong and has convinced me to read more historical fiction in the future. 

Beautiful Lies is set in 1887 as London prepares for Queen Victoria's jubilee. Through out the book, there are stong similarities between 2012 and 1887 - riots, high levels of poverty, civil rights being compromised, recession. This book made me consider the question of 'do we ever learn from history or do we just look back at the past with rose tinted glasses?' Even the characters are left considering this question when looking back at their own lives. 

Central to the story of the Beautiful Lies are Maribel, a sometimes poet and semi-professional photographer and her socialist politician husband, Edward. On the surface they are the 'It Couple.' They have a flat in London, are acquainted with famous artists and authors, and they fight for the rights for workers. Edward at one point ends up in a riot and in prison. But under the surface they have a past that threatens to ruin them both. 

As Beautiful Lies progress, the story delves deeper into the past of Maribel and the reader learns that she is not a Spanish trophy wife for her politician husband, Edward. She was actually born in Yorkshire but ran away to become an actress but ends up as a prositutue and meets Edward in a brothel. Together they spin a story about her Spanish family. The most fascinating thing about Maribel and Edward is the fact that they are based on a real life scandal about the real-life couple, Robert Cunninghame Graham and his wife Gabriela, which didn't come out until their deaths.

Memory plays an important part within Beautiful Lies. On one hand Maribel wants to bury her past but has to face the consequences when her family suddenly appear in her life. She wants to preserve her 'present' self as much as possible. We see this with her fascination with photography and using it to capture the truths and to look beyond the veneer of society. Maribel wants to capture a genuine memory. Yet she stays behind the camera so then no one can capture her true nature. 

Beautiful Lies is an entertaining book full of secrets, lies and drama and full of vivid and sometimes indulgent descriptions. This is an ideal book to curl up with when it's freezing outside or when you want a book to read in the bath. Beautiful Lies would make an ideal Christmas present for a family member or friend who likes soap-opera style historical fiction. 

You can purchase Beautiful Lies from your favourite online or offline book retailer.

The publisher kindly sent me a copy for review. 

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