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Lying Low (William Abrahams Book) Paperback – April 1, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Diane Johnson is the author of the bestselling novel Le Divorce, a 1997 National Book Award finalist, as well as twelve other books, including the novels Persian Nights, Health and Happiness, Lying Low, The Shadow Knows, and Burning (all available in Plume editions). She divides her time between San Francisco and Paris.
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Product Details

  • Series: William Abrahams Book
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (April 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452279453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452279452
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,709,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was thrilled to see this book back in print -- I'd lent out my copy years ago and despaired of ever having it again in my bookshelf. Diane Johnson is marvelously shrewd about people (you often want to strangle her characters for their obtuseness and selfishness even as you sympathize with them completely) and style (is there anyone after Forster who jumps more deftly among differing points of view?) but, alas, less clever about plotting. Many of her novels end with acts of violence that seem to me less like comments about society than attempts by an author to find some way of extricating herself from her own plot. I'd include the endings of both "Le Divorce" and "Persian Nights" here, and, in a different way, "The Shadow Knows." For my money "Lying Low" is the novel where Johnson best united her usual acute characterization and epigrammatic style with a surprising, yet wholly logical and satisfying plot.
The characters, most of them, live in a big Victorian house in a university town that I'll bet is modeled on Davis, California. The time is 1974-5, the noises from the '60s still echo in the air, and the central character, an elderly ex-dancer with mild bohemian tendencies, makes part of her living by renting out rooms in her family house. She lives with her brother, a sort of low-wattage Ansel Adams, and two boarders, a young Brazilian woman who is hiding from the INS and a somewhat older American woman who is hiding from the FBI. The novel takes place over five days and involves baby-sitting, Brazilian cooking, and many Mason jars full of high explosive. Good stuff.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
I'm a big fan of Diane Johnson's novels Le Divorce and Le Mariage for her lovely writing, dead-on characterizations and her observant articulation of the cultural differences between Americans and the French. She has the ability to create characters who are superficially a "type" (such as young American girl in Paris, superchic young Parisian woman, masculine American expatriate journalist, etc.) and make them extremely interesting by giving us a view to their inner thoughts. They never ring false. I was excited to read Lying Low for this reason. Lying Low is another example of her gift for characters, especially with the characters Marybeth/Lynn (the fugitive) and Theo. Other characters are Ouida, the Brazilian immigrant, and Anton, Theo's photographer brother. However, this book was also a bit disappointing in terms of plot. Those four aforementioned characters share a Victorian house in Orris, California, a small college town near Sacramento (read: Davis). Not a whole lot happens externally -- everything important seems to occur inside the characters' heads, and the ending is nothing to speak of -- a rather farfetched catastrophe (not coincidentally very similar to Le Divorce and to a lesser extent Le Mariage). Johnson appears to have first published it in the late 1970's. Perhaps she hadn't yet honed her storytelling abilities to the degree shown in her most recent novels. I liked it, but it wasn't wholly satisfying.
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By Silvia N. Pena on December 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
I have been reading Diane Johnson's work beginning with her last three bestsellers, Le Divorce, Le Mariage and L'affaire. I went on to Persian Nights, The Shadow Knows and finally Lying Low. The earlier works are more introspective and reveal the darker side of human nature--fears, regrets, obsessions, wounds. Granted, her most recent works are more humorous but they lack the depth of her earlier work. These older novels delve into the reality of American life as seen from the inside. The new novels examine the American psyche as compared to that of the European. What is consistent in her work is the portrayal of the American as naive, the individual who that assumes everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. That everything has a purpose. In Lying Low she introduces a foreign spectator, Ouida, the illegal Brazilian immigrant. Enamored of the freedom provided by the American way of life she realizes at the end that the complexity of the expectations this freedom entails is far less joyful than the simple traditional village life she left behind.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Waleed Eissa on November 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
A beautifully fractured tale, moored in anguish but told with compelling wit, eroticism, and consumate wonder.
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By Zenkitty on March 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
Lying Low exemplifies Diane Johnson's ability to reveal the inner dialogue of her characters with witty detachment. Johnson's accuracy in exposing individual human thought processes is engrossing and laugh-out-loud funny; one forgets she is quite cleverly weaving a tantalizing plot through the twists and turns of her character's thoughts. Spending four days in the lives of Ouida, Marybeth aka Lynn, Theo, and Anton is an absolute delight. The innocent Ouida is the star of this comedy, with her perpetually muddled English perception. But all of the main characters have a sweet naivete, perhaps truly found in every person's core. The fact that Johnson reaches so deeply into her characters is a testament to her gifts. Lying Low may be her greatest accomplishment.
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