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Beautiful Lies Hardcover – September 18, 2012

3.6 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Julian Fellowes's Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
"Julian Fellowes's Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes
From the creator and writer of Downton Abbey comes a grand historical novel, with hugely exciting twists and dramatic chapter endings. Learn more | See author page
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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

Book Description

HMH Hardcover, 2012, 978-0151014675
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151014671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151014675
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,351,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
'Beautiful Lies' is a work of literary/historical fiction that chronicles the private life of Maribel Campbell Lowe, her family's hidden past, and a scandalous newspaper editor that threatens to destroy Maribel and her husband.

Clark did an impeccable job with this novel. Her writing style flowed effortlessly and I was transported back in time alongside Maribel from the very first page. The descriptions of the time and the various settings of the novel were done in such a way that I could simply close my eyes and I could vividly imagine the scene unfolding around me.

The characters in the book were very realistic and believable. They all had unique personalities and flaws that made them easy to identify with - I felt as if I knew them all personally, like I was taking part in the narrative myself. The author wrote the character of Maribel with such earnestness that even her mistakes and character flaws make the reader love her and sympathize with her. We feel her every emotion with intensity and vigor. All the characters are written with this amount of depth, so the heroine doesn't feel over-developed and the other characters are just as rounded, which I feel make the story all the more enchanting.

The novel swept me away from the first page and didn't release it's thrall until the last word. There aren't many times when a piece of literature makes a lasting impression on a reader, but this is one that I will be thinking and speaking about for a long time to come. Clark did a wonderful job bringing not only the past to life, but making a historical woman and her secrets come alive before our very eyes. It is an enthralling look into history and a beautifully written piece of literary fiction. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of literary and historical fiction.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Author Clare Clark clearly knows how to conduct period research and also has a vivid imagination. Those qualities combine in Beautiful Lies to create an elegantly written historical novel that is embellished with the kinds of details that really bring the story and the setting to life. If you enjoy literary historical fiction, you'll want to consider spending some time with this book.

True Lies was inspired by real people and events in 1880s England, though fictionalized through the magic of Clark's imagination. It centers around two main characters, Maribel Campbell Lowe, and her husband, Edward, a member of the aristocracy at a time when their fortunes are starting to decline. Edward, a member of Parliament, is a socialist and fierce advocate for the poor. Maribel purportedly was raised in Chile, the daughter of French and Spanish parents, but her persona is a fabrication; in reality, she is an Englishwoman with a past, and Edward was complicit in her reinvention of herself. Edward is struggling to hang onto the family estate in Scotland and leaves management of the finances to Maribel. His mother is oblivious to the state of the family finances and insists on living in the style to which she has become accustomed.

The story is set in a time of great change and upheaval. There is an enormous gap between rich and poor, and the labor movement is beginning to gain traction, prompting the old guard to cling even tighter to the status quo and to react with violence when they perceive that it is threatened. Photography is finally within reach of the average person, and indeed, Maribel takes it up as a hobby. Relationships between the US and Britain are also changing, and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show is in London, playing to packed audiences.
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