cover image Lie With Me

Lie With Me

Philippe Besson, trans. from the French by Molly Ringwald. Scribner, $25 (160p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9787-1

Besson (In the Absence of Men) rehashes familiar tropes about secret teenage gay romance in this moving but unoriginal novel. Novelist Philippe, who shares many biographical details with the author, falls into a reverie about his first experience of romance when he spots a young man who looks just like his first lover from a couple decades earlier. Philippe, a high achieving 17-year-old student, frets about being gay in 1984 Barbezieux, France. Thomas Andrieu, a much cooler student and the son of a farmer, unexpectedly approaches Philippe with an invitation to lunch. Eating far away from the crowds, Thomas boldly offers a clandestine relationship. Philippe and Thomas pass notes with places and times for their meetings and pretend to not know each other otherwise. The adult Philippe relishes the memories in richly described erotic encounters. Their initially silent trysts blossom into conversation and love, but always remain secret. Thomas abruptly leaves town after school, leaving Philippe to wonder what happened until the chance encounter with the young doppelgänger provides insights and sets the stage for a tragic culmination. Despite the predictable plot, Besson’s writing and Ringwald’s smooth translation provide emotional impact. Agent: Benita Edzard, Robert Laffont. (Apr.)