This is a short, (148 pages in the paperback edition) nostalgic, yearning French work in which the narrator is startled by the appearance of a man in 2007 which takes him back to a tale of first love from 1984 before a final section set in 2016. It’s an enigmatic work, seemingly simple, hiding a depth which the French do so well. The title here holds a double meaning, which actually it doesn’t have in its original language where it is “Arrete Avec Tes Mensonges” (“Stop With Your Lies”). The English title niftily gives it seduction as well as dishonesty.
I didn’t know how much it is a work of fiction or whether it strays into autobiography. The puzzle here is created by the author’s dedication to a real life person who has the same name as the love interest. Maybe it is all true, maybe purely from imagination, it doesn’t really matter.
What I do know, which is a surprise in itself, is that the English translation is by Hollywood A-Lister Molly Ringwald, star of many an 80’s teen comedy from “Breakfast Club” to “Pretty In Pink” to a main character recurring role as Archie’s mum in “Riverdale”. I can only assume that she must have loved this book so much in French that she wanted to bring it to an international audience. Her translation certainly feels authentic, full of French introspection, together with the odd cultural reference I had to look up.
As is common with books of this length, the tale is slight, a love story between two teenage boys kept secret before they go their separate ways after their schooldays. I became more involved once we got into the two later sections, set more recently. There’s a bit of a leap of faith plausibility-wise required but get beyond that and it becomes a well-handled study on the directions life takes us and I was drawn in by the sensitivity of it all.
I’m not sure whether I’ve ever really been blown away by an adult novel under 200 pages and this hasn’t changed things entirely. I think that is more my problem than the author of novellas- perhaps my expectations of what I desire most from a reading experience demands greater length. I’m still looking for the book to change my mind. This, however, did have the potential to come close to doing that.
Lie With Me was published in the UK by Penguin Books in 2019.