Hot Tip: Why you should be reading Lie With Me
If you liked Call Me By Your Name (either the book or movie), you really should check out Lie With Me, a slim, subtle take on a similar adolescent romance, drawn from the life of its French author, Philippe Besson.
It’s set in a small French village. Its 17-year-old lovers, Philippe and Thomas, are hesitant, afraid of being found out, unsure of exactly what is drawing them together in this way. The chemistry is palpable, also the sense of an ending. But you’re not prepared for the abruptness of the separation or the strange way in which their paths cross again.
Besson, now 52, would have been 17 in the 1980s, when the book is set. Lie With Me has been called the French Brokeback Mountain and, in a sense, they are linked. Besson was in New York in 2005, when Brokeback Mountain came out. “There was a cinema next to my hotel, so I said to myself, ‘I’ll go see this movie,’” he told The New Yorker. “I went to the two-o’clock showing that day, and every day for a whole week. And every day I came out devastated. In tears, dazed on the sidewalk! It reminded me of my own story, of the waste — of how we miss a life.”
The fact that it is so rooted in reality, even dedicated to Thomas Andrieu, is part of what makes it unputdownable. The English translation, rendered beautifully by the actor and writer Molly Ringwald and released earlier this year, captures the desperation of young love, and the sense of horror at the ordinary world, when that love is no longer sustainable. The internal monologue of 17-year-old Philippe is stirring. As when he speaks, at a party, of ‘a fear of crowds, their movements, their inherent potential to transform into a mob’. Or writes with despair of healing, because not matter what, ‘as is often the case, you eventually heal’.
Don’t expect the sweep of Call Me By Your Name, or anything like the same tug at the end. Prepare for a story such as you might tell a friend, looking back decades from now; a tale of loss, longing and heartbreak, but with the edges rounded by time.