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Beautiful Lies Paperback – 6 Jun 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (6 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099570467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099570462
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 686,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A captivating fable of truth and memory" (New York Times)

"A shining example of historical literary fiction... Nothing less than literary pyrotechnics...a dazzingly elegant novel steeped in the rich detail of the period" (Lucy Scholes Independent)

"Clare Clark is one of those writers who can see into the past and help us feel its texture" (Hilary Mantel)

"A stirring and seductive novel" (The Economist)

"[A] beautifully crafted piece of Victoriana…a satisfying blend of period melodrama and psychological sharpness" (Adrian Turpin Financial Times)

Book Description

London, 1887. In a momentous year dogged by economic crisis, riots and a voracious press hungry for scandal - how can one MP's wife bury the truth about her past?

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Riots in London, celebrity scandal, a newspaper out of control, a Royal Jubilee - despite the contemporary feel, the year is 1887. This is a story rich in history, especially the politics of early socialism as the Liberals are failing the working people. Edward Campbell Lowe is a Radical MP, a maverick Scottish aristocrat but a supporter of reform. He has secrets. His wife, Maribel, also has a history which, were it to come to public notice, would destroy them. On the warpath is a newspaper, the Chronicle, its editor, Alfred Webster, a supporter of reform who realises, too, that nothing sells like sex and scandal, so, though a potential supporter, is also a threat. Another theme is Maribel's own search to make amends for her past. This is a theme of many other contemporary novels that I have been reading[Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone, for example]but Clare Clark manages this story so well; the moving tale neatly balances the harder political edge of the book. The novel takes us through the drawing rooms of the rich, the raw poverty of London streets and the collapse of the crofting economy; Buffalo Bill rides through the pages, while Maribel's personal search reveals the desperate lives of Spanish peasants. Clare Clark also manages politics and religion, especially the vogue for spiritualism. A key part of the story is the emerging art of photography and photo-journalism. Some knowledge of the period would perhaps be essential to get the most out of the novel, but I was amazed at what the author reveals. Clare Clark loves her heroine. I loved the book.
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The book begins with such an extravagantly luscious piece of writing that I thought I couldn’t bear a whole book written in that style - but, though the rest of the book has many arresting images, it is only that opening scene which is written in that flamboyant way. The next handicap was the following scene, in which in a very few pages we are swamped with thirteen characters, nine of them children. (The novel is set in 1887, and Victorians did have very large families). But these chapters introduce, in particular, the children’s mother, Charlotte, whose friendship with Maribel, the central figure of the novel, is most attractively portrayed.

The focus eventually narrows to Maribel and to her husband, Edward Campbell Lowe, who is a passionate Radical Member of Parliament. Their love for each other glows throughout the book. Clare Clark’s note at the end tells us that Edward is closely based on Robert Cunningham Graham, a little-known politician, whose biography she gives. As for Maribel, one puzzling thing that only became known in 1985 about the politician’s wife makes it possible for the author to imagine what might account for that enigma, and most of her story in this novel is pure fiction. Another character, here portrayed as the utterly loathsome Alfred Webster, is modelled on the journalist W.T.Stead of the Pall Mall Gazette, founder of lurid and sensational exposures of sexual sleaze, and here, despite espousing radicalism himself, a hate-filled enemy of Edward and Maribel. Others playing a part in the story appear under their own names: John Burns, William and Jane Morris, Annie Besant, Mrs Aveling, Oscar and Constance Wilde, Asquith etc. So this is a novel based on a mass of well-researched political and social history.
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By Susie B TOP 100 REVIEWER on 10 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Clare Clark's latest novel 'Beautiful Lies' is the story of Maribel Campbell Lowe, a beautiful, unusual and somewhat unconventional woman, and her husband, Edward, a maverick liberal politician with socialist leanings. The year is 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee; this is a time of deep recession; unemployment is high; the divide between the rich and the poor is very much in evidence; temporary homes have been set up in Trafalgar Square; strikes, demonstrations and riots take place on the streets of London and politicians are caught in scandalous deeds. Not surprisingly, this story has some interesting parallels to the present day and, therefore, Clare Clark's novel is not just a story about Victorian England but also, in some ways, about our own times.

Our main protagonist, Maribel, we are told, was born Maria Isabel Constanza de la Flamandiere, the only child of a French father and a Spanish mother, who spent her childhood in Chile and, at the age of twelve, was sent to live with an aunt in Paris where she attended a convent school. At the age of seventeen, Maribel met Edward Campbell Lowe when his horse reared in front of her, and they both fell in love with each other. At least that is the story people are told whenever they enquire about Maribel or her family - but this is all a fabrication, for Maribel and Edward are hiding a secret about Maribel's past, and that is not all, for Maribel is hiding further secrets of which even Edward is unaware. And when Maribel meets Alfred Webster, the exciting and enterprising editor of a popular newspaper and is initially attracted, but later repelled by him, she begins to realize that he may know secrets about her that, if published, would totally ruin Edward's career and possibly Edward's love for her.
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