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Truth Games Paperback – 27 Jun 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Cinnamon Press (27 Jun. 2009)
  • ISBN-10: 1905614721
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905614721
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,691,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Bobbie Darbyshire lives in Clapham. She won the 2008 fiction prize at the National Academy of Writing in Birmingham, and has been published in their anthology, 'Finding a Voice', and by Mslexia. Her mystery romantic comedy 'The Real McCoy' has been serialised in the print magazine First Edition.
Bobbie has a sociology degree and has worked as barmaid, mushroom picker, film extra, maths coach, cabinet minister's private secretary, and as a care assistant, as well as in social research and government policy. She hosts a writers' group and is a volunteer adult-literacy teacher. Contact her on: bobbie[dot]darbyshire[at]ntlworld[dot]com

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Lois sighed, and Hugh drew back hurt into his own warm space in the bed. He would have to say something soon.
He made himself speak, as though it were nothing. `You don't fancy me much lately, petal.'
`I never really did.' She rolled away and lay still.
It had him catching his breath. Insults were standard, she never pulled her punches, but calling her `petal' was cue for her to counter by calling him `prawn', a reference to his sun-shy skin and red hair. `I never really did, prawn' was what she ought to have said.
He stared at her tangle of dark curls. He was being foolish; she was probably hung over. Saturday night with the Goldings was getting to be a habit, and too often they paid for it on Sunday morning. His own head was clear. At forty, he was feeling the need to go slow with the wine, to put a hand over his glass when Jack lurched by on his life mission to top everyone up.
He snuggled close again, kissed Lois's freckled shoulder, breathed in the lazy, sleepy smell of her. `Poor petal. Shall I bring you a cuppa?'
She half-turned her head. `Not even at the start, I didn't. Not properly.' She sounded despairing. `It wasn't really physical. You know?'
It was happening, what he'd dreaded so long. He tried to see her eyes.
`But we had something back then,' he said, `We still do.'
`If you say so.' She shook her head, chewed her lip. `Although sometimes I wonder--was I just showing off?'
She was sliding from his arms, launching herself into the day. She had swung her legs clear of the bed and was reaching to open the curtain. The stream of sunshine dazzled him, bouncing off her naked flesh and revealing the hot dust in the air around her.
Horatio struggled from his basket, wagging and snorting and sneezing. When Hugh leant to fondle his ears, the dog promptly heaved himself onto the bed and covered his face with slobber. `Ugh! No! Get down, you beast! Now I understand how my poor wife feels.'
He looked up, hoping for a smile, but she showed no sign of having heard. She was contemplating her reflection in the long mirror on the wardrobe door, no light in her eyes. And he knew he'd lost her. Ten years, his time up and she'd be gone. He couldn't bear it. No choice, no more time to consider; he must make his offer at once. Hugging the dog to his chest, he took a steadying breath and made himself speak the words.
`I wouldn't mind.' They snagged in his throat. `You know, if you wanted adventures.'
She turned from the mirror.
`Seriously, Lois.'
A second went by.
`If I fuck someone else, you mean?'
He closed his eyes. `Truly, I would the gods had made thee poetical.'
`You won't go all hurt and holier-than-thou?'
Won't, not wouldn't.
`No,' his voice hoarse, `I won't.'
He was off the bed, taking a step towards her, wanting to rewind the ten years and see the starry-eyed student who'd seduced him. `My love, I tried to teach you ethics once and failed. I've learned my lesson.'
She pulled a face and turned back to the mirror. `There you go. Pompous already.'
My god, she was right. In that case, `Lois, listen.' He took another step. `I mean it. I promise. No moralising.'
Her dark-blue eyes observed him from the depths of the mirror. He gathered himself to speak plainly.
`I will not, repeat not, go all hurt and holier-than-thou if you sleep with another man. With a dozen other men. I know I'm not all you need. I love you. You're free. Use your freedom. I'll still love you.'
He paused, then added, `Try not to leave me.'
`Do you mean this?'
At last she was smiling.
`Yes, I do.'
Like a child on Christmas morning.
`You honestly won't mind?'
`Cross my heart.'
He cupped her face in his hands. She had her arms round him now. `Thank you, prawn.'
He swallowed. The transaction was oddly exciting. Come back to bed, he wanted to say, but she was pulling on jeans.
`Yes... time for breakfast.' He backed away, groping for his dressing-gown and the door handle and nearly tripping over Horatio, who lumbered ahead. As he reached the bathroom, he found he was trembling and sweating. He'd promised too much. And what could it buy him but time? She would despise him; she would still leave him. But even if the gamble was futile, what other way was there? Love wasn't a chain.
He stared into the mirror, forcing his hands to manage toothbrush and paste. Why did she marry him? He examined his nondescript, middle-aged features. He'd never understand it. Why did she detach herself from the crowd of wide-eyed eighteen-year-olds and waylay her tutor? And how had he persuaded himself it wasn't lunacy to let himself love her, this impulsive, unsuitable student who put his heartbeat on hold, standing too close, with her eyes on his lips? Who told him she wasn't the lovey-dovey type, but really liked him. Liked the way he explained this ethics nonsense--when did he get pompous?--and knew the best bits from the boring books.
`Shakespeare's not boring.'
`If you say so. Go on then, tell me another.'
`It were all one that I should love a bright particular star and think to wed it, she is so above me.' That was her favourite.
It was impossible, he told her. `I'm your philosophy tutor... your moral tutor.'
She was shameless. `Okay,' she said, `let's get wed, have a party, go public. Sort out all that rubbish.'
`Marriage?' He'd fought vainly to hang on to reality. `You'd regret it in no time. I'd make you unhappy. Then you'd make me unhappy.'
`So what?'
And suddenly that had been his thought as well...

Customer Reviews

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By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 23 Mar. 2016
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bobbie Darbyshire's debut novel explores the sexual revolution of the 1970s through the lives of a close group of friends. Flirtatious amoralist Lois is happily married to scholarly, gentle philosophy lecturer Hugh, but doesn't feel she was made for monogamy. Neither does property developer Jack, who decides to juggle his uptight wife Tessa with as many lovers as he can fit into his busy life. Meanwhile Ann has been dumped by her longterm partner, and can't decide whether to embrace singledom, or to take up the offer of a fling from charming scrounger and film buff Charlie. Zoë is married to sturdy science teacher Tony, but when they discover dry rot in the kitchen of their new house, she begins to wonder if it's a symbol that the marriage is 'rotten' too. And gentle part-Italian part-French part-English Sebastian, Charlie's flatmate and landlord, looks on wistfully at the group, wondering what would happen if he shared their liberated spirit. But, as Darbyshire shows, there ain't no such thing as free love...

This novel was published (very nicely) by a small press, and didn't get much press attention, though I see it's been well received by readers. Part of the problem, I suspect, is that it falls between two stools. Darbyshire's far too good a writer to go down the chick-lit route. Her tone is ironic, her beautiful writing style definitely literary. So the sort of reader who'd fall on Adele Parks or Lisa Jewell's pavement-sized rather sentimental descriptions of love and sex among a group of London friends (sorry - I'm not a fan of either of these authors on the whole) would find Darbyshire's book too sophisticated.
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This is story telling at its best with characters so real you feel you know them. Set in the 70s between the advent of the pill and the onset of aids Truth Games explores the relationships between a group of friends over the long hot summers of 75 and 76 and the winter in between. On one level Bobbie Darbyshire explores the sexual relationships that develop between the friends and the concepts of fidelity that these relationships throw up. But on a deaper level its about fidelity between friends, the friends who listen and those who don't and the impact of the casual throw away remark. For those who remember the 70s this will bring back lots of memories, from what we wore, what food was in and the relentless heat of those two summers. For those who don't remember the 70s don't be put off there's lots here that's as relevant today as it was then. The book will have you laughing out loud one moment and then it brings you up short and makes you think the next. A thoroughly good read and well deserving of 5 stars.
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Quality of language is fine, good writing, great start, interesting concept, moves at a decent pace far so good. My issue lies with the plot, or more specifically the character development within the plot, which I found to be a bit two dimensional, to the extent that by the end I had pretty much lost interest in several of the characters as they had become fixed: wooden and predictable. Even where characters do make dramatic changes and decisions I didn't find the process leading to those points credible; or perhaps the dramatic moment was simply underdeveloped. So overall, despite the many good aspects I highlighted above, I was left with a sense of 'so what'?
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Truth Games concerns a world of fractured relationships. Set in the 70's in London, a mixed bag of people come together - a few have hit a bored patch in their lives. What follows is a series of haphazard encounters where breaches in trust seem normal i.e. free sex = cool/interesting and stable relationships = uncool/boring. Maybe young people might not completely understand how this was breaking with past constraints. Women in the 70's could burn their bras, get educated and start to have more choice about their pathways in life, including their sexual relationships. The sheer novelty of being able to choose to not have babies and to abandon 'honour and obey' and replace these with 'me! me! me!' Yet there are characters who manage to hold onto integrity but there others whose behaviour reminded me of the flip side and the not so fun times of those times of liberation and free love. These themes of greed and inequality continue to be applicable and this makes Truth Games interesting because it's possible to see why today we continue to consume and devour more of the world and each other.

Bobbie Darbyshire manages to capture the flavour of the time so well. She tackles difficult issues with a full understanding of human relationships and what it takes to trust another even in the darkest moments. And maybe that love conquers all...
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This is a book I could hardly put down. Nicely paced, the chapters are just the right length, each one taking forward both the story and your appreciation of the characters.

The main theme is sex (as the back cover tells you, so no-one should complain) and it gets pretty full on (so no-one need feel sold short). Sex (as the title hints) becomes a game which some of the characters play with their eyes open, others just getting carried along. But the book isn't so much about the game as about the people playing it, and what the game does to them (some inevitably get hurt). As well as being a lot of fun it gives you some food for serious thought about this (which puts it in a long tradition going back at least to "Les Liaisons Dangereuses").

The seventies atmosphere is vividly evoked but the book doesn't really feel dated because no-one has found the answer to these questions yet! The ending is brilliant; I don't want to give it away but I feel the way it hints at resolution (for three lots of characters) but leaves a lingering uncertainty about the outcome is just right. An impressive first novel.
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