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Beautiful Lies Hardcover – September 18, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151014671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151014675
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #538,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Clark's fiction manages to maintain historical accuracy even as it indulges in great storytelling and lush prose. . . . Her central character, Maribel Campbell Lowe, is the beautiful, chain-smoking wife of a radical Scottish M.P. . . . She develops the story gently, with revelations about Maribel's past folded carefully into scenes from the present, yielding a complex tapestry of tales. A captivating fable of truth and memory." -- Andrea Wulf, The New York Times Book Review


"Beautiful Lies presents us with a couple who would surely be counted among our Beautiful People today. . . . .The whole novel is carefully constructed and full of wonderful details about the period. You can see that the Victorian Age is a mirror image of our own. And Edward and Maribel are touching, funny, brave, and sweet." -- Carolyn See, The Washington Post


"The charm of Beautiful Lies is that Clark breaks the usual Victorian moral code, exploring both the colorful world outside the drawing room and the depths of her characters' minds. A stirring and seductive novel."  - The Economist


"Clark plays with the ideas of identity and image, while incorporating the Bloody Sunday riots, Buffalo Bill Cody's Will West Show, and the growing interest in Spiritualism. . . .Beautiful Lies takes its time to develop, but its portrait of a woman determined to decide for herself who she is and a society less stable and comfortable than it imagines is a rich one well worth studying." -- The Christian Science Monitor

Praise for Clare Clark:

"One of those writers who can see into the past and help us feel its texture." –Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall 

"As a storyteller, Clark is endowed with verve and intelligence, but her larger gift, dazzlingly in evidence throughout both her fine novels, lies in the originality of her imagination. She gives us a world that feels alive and intense, magnificently raw."—New York Times Book Review

"Clark’s commitment to historical color is matched by the dramatic arc of an engrossing story."  --Washington Post

"Clare Clark writes with the eyes of a historian and the soul of a novelist." - Amanda Foreman

About the Author

CLARE CLARK is the author of four novels, including The Great Stink, which was long-listed for the Orange Prize and was named a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and Savage Lands, which was long-listed for the Orange Prize in 2010. Her work has been translated into five languages. She lives in London.

More About the Author

CLARE CLARK is the author of The Great Stink, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and The Nature of Monsters. She lives in London.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 38 customer reviews
Clark did an impeccable job with this novel.
Stephanie Ward
There were too many secondary characters and superfluous subplots that added nothing to the flow of the narrative.
Nitty's Mom
I read over 200 pages of this book and wasn't compelled to continue.
Barb Mechalke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Just My Op VINE VOICE on August 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If Maribel had not smoked, I'm guessing that this historical fiction would have been a good 25 pages shorter. But Maribel smoked, and we read about where she got her cigarettes, how she felt before, during, after smoking, how the ashtrays overflowed, how the smoke and the tips of the cigarettes looked, much more than I ever wanted to know about this particular habit of hers. Not only did she smoke obsessively, the author described it obsessively.

Maribel was the wife of a late-19th century liberal politician capable of making strong enemies. Unfortunately, she came across as only a foolish woman who, despite beautiful lies, was not particularly interesting or even particularly likable. She and her husband were both multifaceted, but her friend Charlotte was too good to be real.

What I liked about the novel is the information on the politics and attitudes of the period, and that the major characters, although fictionalized, were based on real people. I liked that other real people such as Oscar Wilde appeared under their own names. I like reading about the Victorian era.

The first book I read by this author, The Nature of Monsters, left a very favorable impression on me although it was a dark book. The second I read by her, The Great Stink, was much less interesting to me, and there were parts of it I didn't care for at all. This one lies somewhere between those two. I enjoyed it for a summer read but I didn't love it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Anne M. Hunter VINE VOICE on August 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
1887 was a notable year in the British Empire: Queen Victoria's Golden
Jubilee, the year that Buffalo Bill Cody seized the imagination of
London with his Wild West Show complete with real Indians, and a time
of demonstrations and sit-ins over the terrible poverty that the wealth of
Britain's empire wasn't solving. Modern popular journalism is also
developing just then. All of these play a key role in this novel.

A radical and aristocratic but impoverished Scots MP is married to
Maribel, a beautiful woman who claims to be from South America,
half-French and half-Spanish, educated in a French convent. She's an
imposter, and one wonders how she manages to pull it all off, even if
she is a would-be actress. Being exposed would apparently destroy her
husband's political career as well as their position in society.
Nonetheless Maribel flirts with disaster while her hotheaded husband plays
with political disaster. He's amazingly good to Maribel for a
Victorian husband, except for a penchant for brothels, encouraging her
to develop her talents as a photographer and writer, and respecting
her superior financial acumen.

I enjoyed learning about Victorian London from this perspective, and
the book was in general vividly and well-written. There were a few
anachronistic-feeling expressions and situations, and in general the
book drifted on a bit repetitively. A good editing down to 350 pages
would have improved it, as it'a a long read (it took me well over a
week). More development of some of the secondary but key characters
would have helped, too. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Victorian
London, especially the less-respectable and stodgy side of it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christine Zibas VINE VOICE on September 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Charming, insightful, and utterly engrossing, "Beautiful Lies" by Clare Clark sets its novel of family secrets in tumultuous Victorian London. It's a time of the Queen's Jubilee, but also of trouble and strife. Thousands are unemployed and sleeping rough near Trafalgar Square.

The novel centers on a couple firmly in the heart of elite society. Maribel Campbell Lowe is the wife of an upstart Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) who is engrossed in fighting the establishment of which he is a part. He has taken on the cause of the miners of his district, of his tenant farmers in Scotland, and of the poor who crowd the London streets.

Meanwhile Maribel is a bohemian, an artist seeking her outlet, not interested in performing the typical wifely duties of commanding servants and raising children. She wants more from her life, more time with her husband.

Into this setting comes not only the Wild West Show, political demonstrations, and a need to shore up expenses at the financially draining Scotland estate, but also a tabloid newspaper editor, who threatens to take down the entire artfully crafted Campbell Lowe clan. There are secrets to be kept, and Maribel's past threatens to put her family's reputation in danger. Can the lies be kept hidden, or will they be exposed in a scandal that rocks the very foundations of their lives?

Clark's novel not only tells a captivating tale, but illuminates brilliantly the challenges and excitement of the Victorian Age. It also parallels contemporary times quite well. From financial challenges to media obsession, the Victorians perfectly mimic the modern era in which we live today.

This is a novel of layers, and readers can go as deeply as they like or remain entertained by the main surface story of the Campbell Lowes. Either way, they will be richly rewarded for the effort. This novel is one of the best historical novels of the year. Don't miss it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary Esterhammer-Fic VINE VOICE on October 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm a fan of Clare Clark--I really loved "The Great Stink," for many reasons. She has a gift for recognizing the significance of events that almost pass unnoticed in the history books, but with deft character development and clever plot twists, her subjects come alive.

"Beautiful Lies" does not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her previous novels. I just couldn't relate to the characters--they seemed flat and stilted. I wasn't drawn into the intrigue and twists that her story tried to present.

It's a decent novel, and competently written, and I stuck with it because I knew Clark wouldn't produce a book that wasn't worthwhile. That's true, but it just (for me) wasn't as much of a page-turner as her other books. The first third of the book was difficult to settle into, although after that the pace picked up a little.

If you like Clare Clark, and if you like historical fiction, add this to your list of books to explore. But frankly, if this had been my first introduction to her novels, I don't know if I would have read the others.
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