Lie with Me – Philippe Besson – “But that only makes it worse: a real heterosexual boy would never allow that kind of thing to be said about him.”

I am not sure if I could deem myself an expert in any particular genre, but I have no problem admitting I am a lover of LGBTQI stories — mainly gay romances. Although I was born in the ‘90s, I find myself drawn to the LGBTQI novels of the decade before. There is something sweet and melancholic about stories from the ’80s, and the themes of secrecy and forbidden love are extremely appealing to me.

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I devoured everything from the captivating and joyful encounters in Aristotle and Date Discover the Secrets of the Universe, to the themes of obsessive love in Call Me by Your Name, to the tragedy and heartbreak of Brokeback Mountain — and then I stumbled upon Lie with Me, the perfect mix of passion and the pains of secrecy, silence, and waiting.

Author Phillippe Besson narrates the adventure of an unnamed male protagonist and his friend Thomas. During their youth, they shared a passionate, secret relationship where the pair found intimacy while surrounded by an unknown crowd in a place far from home. I can’t help but relate this to The Great Gatsby where Jordan said she “likes large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy”. Ironically, even as the pair shares raw emotions with each other, they are unable to express them publicly. What seems to be killing the protagonist is Thomas’s silence and denial of who there are and what they feel for each other. Days and weeks pass without any interaction between them, and the silence threatens to throw their “mistake” into oblivion — to bury them alive under a mountain of unspoken words.

I shut up, it’s just to avoid being confronted by violence. Is it cowardice? Perhaps. I prefer to see it as a kind of necessary self-protection.

In my opinion, silence is one of the worst forms of torture in a relationship, but there’s definitely a case to be made for indifference. In Lie With Me, doubts and questions start to pop up: Was it a mistake? Did they bury their true selves? Did it even happen? Were they mad? As time passes, the characters cannot stop thinking about the “what ifs.” Many years pass in utter silence, but the questions are always hovering in the background. They cannot help but wait for the “mistakes” to happen again. For decades, they have yearned for their youth to come back since it meant for them to be together once again as lovers.

People who don’t know us, in any case, for whom we represent nothing and to whom we will say nothing. People who will forget us the moment we leave.

Phillippe Besson cannot help but pour himself into this almost-memoir . The characters existed under the tyranny of secrecy, trapped in memories soaked in the ecstasy of forbidden love; the unnamed protagonist can only respect Thomas’s decisions, whereas Thomas can’t do anything but obey society’s rules. Lie With Me’s prose presents a seemingly endless number of poetic metaphors for love, hurt, sorrow, and hope. Throughout the end of this heart-wrenching love story, Besson makes the case that eradicating the past is as impossible as living a lie, and the only ones that suffer the most are those who yield to the rules of exclusion without questioning what is best for them.

lie with me book review

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