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A True Story Based On Lies Paperback – 13 Jan 2003

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A True Story Based On Lies + The Poison That Fascinates + Prayers for the Stolen
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (13 Jan. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841953725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841953724
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jennifer Clement's new novel Prayers for the Stolen was awarded the NEA Fellowship in Literature 2012 and will be published by Hogarth (USA and UK) in February 2014. The book has also been purchased by Suhrkamp, (Germany), Editions Flammarion, Gallimard (France), De Bezige Bij (Holland), Cappelen Damm (Norway), Hr Ferdinand (Denmark), Bonniers Förlag (Sweden), Laguna (Serbia), Euromedia (Czech Republic), Ikar (Slovakia) Lumen (Spain/Mexico), Guanda (Italy), Like (Finland), Libri (Hungary), Bjartur (Iceland),Rocco (Brazil),Israeli Penn Publishing (Israel), Muza (Poland) and Sindbad (Russia).

Jennifer Clement studied English Literature and Anthropology at New York University and also studied French literature in Paris, France. She has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine.

Clement is the author of the cult classic memoir Widow Basquiat (on the painter Jean Michel Basquiat) and two novels: A True Story Based on Lies, which was a finalist in the Orange Prize for Fiction, and The Poison That Fascinates.
She is also the author of several books of poetry: The Next Stranger (with an introduction by W.S. Merwin); Newton's Sailor; Lady of the Broom and Jennifer Clement: New and Selected Poems.

Jennifer Clement was awarded the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Fellowship for Literature 2012. She is also the recipient of the UK's Canongate Prize. In 2007, she received a MacDowell Fellowship and the MacDowell Colony named her the Robert and Stephanie Olmsted Fellow for 2007-08. Clement is a member of Mexico's prestigious "Sistema Nacional de Creadores." She was President of PEN Mexico from 2009 to 2012. Along with her sister, Barbara Sibley, she founded and directs The San Miguel Poetry Week.

Product Description


"This bold and innovative novel. . . is a persuasive construction of the consciousness of a young woman wronged by the class system . . . superbly drawn." (Times Literary Supplement)

"You would be forgiven for mistaking Clement's first novel for a book of poetry, such is its lyricism and lightness of touch; yet what we are given here is a narrative that not only pays tribute to Clement's background as a poet, but uses the tricks of the mast storyteller to delight and engross. Clement's simple lilting prose poetry belies a dark complexity hidden below the surface and draws the reader on to the book's chilling conclusion." (The Times)

"This is an unusual and graceful book that, in beautiful and precise prose, tells of unimaginable human suffering and manages, in an unexpected climax, to suggest at least the possibility of redemption." (New Internationalist)

"A lyrically told, deeply moving tale." (Sunday Tribune)

"The unfolding emotional and physical complications are fraught with trauma, which the writer's particular style heightens into an emotionally wracking story." (Big Issue)

About the Author

Jennifer Clement is a poet, biographer and novelist. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. She was part of the NYC art scene during the early eighties but she now lives in Mexico City.

She was recently the recipient of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores, a grant awarded in Mexico for outstanding contributions to literature, whose previous recipients include Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz. She is also co-founder and director of the San Miguel Poetry Week.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
An interesting novel. Technically it should probably be called a novella because although coming in at 165 pages, the line and chapter spacing mean that it is a very quick read. Having said that it is set out and uses the language and cadences of poetry. It tells the story of a Mexican Indian woman, Leonora from her childhood in the country to her adulthood as the servant of a rich household in the city. Rather than traditional chapter headings, the story is told point and counterpoint in two strands, one as third person commentary interspersed with Leonora's internal monologue, and one as third person commentary interspersed with narrative from her illegitimate daughter, who has been adopted by the householder. In some senses in reminded me of Tony Morrison's Beloved, visiting many of the same themes, what it means to be a woman, dealing with race and class issues, and a healthy dose of spirituality thrown in. It has the same grace of expression as Beloved, and the poetic aspect, borrowing from biblical rhythms and with a feel like Louis MacNeice's Prayer Before Birth, give it an originality and freshness which saves the story from mundanity, if that is the right word to use for such a tragic, though age old tale.
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Format: Paperback
Although set only decades ago, Clement's prose has a timeless, storybook feel. Can such imbalances of social hierarchy really have been so commonplace and ingrained in such recent history? Better to distance ourselves, and Clement's language does this perfectly. She is a poet and this is evident in the rhythmic cadence of her words, effortlessly evoking an atmosphere heavy with unspoken charms, effortlessly evoking the pains and growing madness of love that cannot be returned between husband and wife, mother and daughter, woman and friend.

"He stepped on my shadow. I could not walk. And then I could not breathe. I did not know what had happened until it happened. It was like trying to stop the rain."

Although barely longer than a novella, there is a beautiful, devastating simplicity to this story, its dark undertones belying the true complexity of the lies that are told. There is more to this story than a wash of words.

If you enjoyed 'Like Water for Chocolate' (Laura Esquivel), you might enjoy the suffused magic of this novel, but it also echoes the darker themes of 'Property' by Valerie Martin. The blend is subtle, unsettling, and highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Jun. 2003
Format: Paperback
A poetic and graceful story told with beautiful and precise prose. An original novel; addressing the issues of class discrimination, male oppression and female servitude. The story is simply told hiding a dark complexity underneath. If you want to read something unusual but engaging buy this book
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very quick delivery this was picked for a book club and I couldn't get it on my Kindle or in my local bookshop. Book was in good order and did the job
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Good Story based on a Gimmick 1 Sept. 2003
By Robert Carlberg - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As this story slowly unfolds, coming together like a jigsaw puzzle, the reader begins to see a picture emerge which is both broader and more powerful than first expected.
Don't be put off by the first few chapters, which set up the gimmick of alternating narrators. Within a very few chapters you are hooked and then the book draws you along inexorably to the momentous conclusion.
Very annoying writing style obscures what could be a lovely story. 24 July 2014
By Amazon Stockholder - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The story itself was an interesting read ... for me especially since I'm a long-time resident of Mexico City and have seen various parts of this story for myself.
But please !! the annoying and distracting writing style really does not allow the story to flow as it should. Interspersed between paragraphs are little "sayings" or utterances that simply make no sense at all in the context of the story. Sometimes they almost seem relevant ... if you pause & think about them ... but more often they are a distracting annoyance that is difficult to ignore.
Yes, eventually I just tried to ignore them ... skip over them ... but overall it's just so unnecessary.
It's as though the author thinks this is a clever, "artistic" way for the story to stand out among conventionally-written prose; sorry, it doesn't succeed.
I bought this book because I enjoyed the author's recent novel "Prayers for the Stolen", which is written in a more conventional style.
Since "True Story ..." was written ten years earlier, maybe Ms. Clement was just trying out different techniques when she wrote it; or more likely, trying to impress the San Miguel Allende crowd with what she maybe thought was a more "poetic" style. Or maybe just the difference between novice and experience.
I admit I've only read the two books mentioned, but let's hope she's matured into authoring more books like "Prayers" and less stories like "True Story".
Clement writes unbearable stories into bearability 29 July 2014
By bee - Published on
Format: Paperback
Clement writes unbearable stories into bearability.
I want to say Thanks to her as an artist/ writer to take on these stories so I can understand something. I just hope Jennifer Clement does not take on too much..look at what happened to Capote after writing In Cold Blood. Your other book that I have read is Stolen Prayers, and that lullaby of a story to women's suffering is amazing too. The concise yet poetic writing tries to counter balance the unfairness humans allow and perform. Thankfully she does not forget the wonderful details that inject sparkles of love ...otherwise these stories would engulf us.
A magnificent story 4 Aug. 2003
By Kirsten - Published on
Format: Paperback
The amount of depth in such a slim volume is amazing. Clement's language and rhythm put me in mind of a folk tale that draws one in easily but lets go hard. I picked this up because I thought it would be a fast read, and it was, but it's stuck with me and I find myself thinking of it at odd quiet moments. Read it, savor it, but be careful if you read on the subway -- I kept missing my stops.
Excellent quick read that will stay with you 3 Mar. 2014
By Elsie - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
fascinating, this story can easily be made into a movie, I can see the attires, the accents. I heard about this writed on NPR, looking for more
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