Thursday, October 11, 2012
Beautiful Lies by Clare Clark
To all who know them, Maribel and Edward Campbell Lowe are a loving couple with everything going for them. Edward has a great career as a Member of Parliament and Maribel is his supporting wife. But Maribel and Edward are hiding things. First and foremost is Maribel's background. Rather than the French-Chilean heiress she claims to be -- both parents deceased -- Maribel's parents are very much alive. And very English. In fact, Maribel isn't even her name. As Edward makes increasing waves in local government with is radical ideas, Maribel tries her best to maintain the illusion she's built about her past. Unfortunately for them both, a local newspaperman with a habit of stirring up trouble has become quite interested in Maribel. Were the people around them to learn the truth, Edward's career could go up in flames and they'd both be ostracized from the society they've become a part of.
Oh, goodness! I struggled so much with this book. It seemed that we were not a good match in spite of my interest in reading it. To be honest, I trudged through the hundred page hurdle and still wasn't at all sure what was going on! In fact, it wasn't until after that point that the book really began to pick up and go somewhere.
In the author's note, Clare Clark talks about her inspiration for the book. The political and economic happenings of the 1880s and one couple in particular -- Robert and Gabriela Cunninghame Graham. Like the characters they inspired, Robert was an MP who's ideas weren't always readily supported by local government. And like Maribel, Gabriela also created her own identity. Amazingly, it wasn't until almost eighty years after her death that anyone found out the truth about Gabriela Cunninghame Graham.
Clark admits that much of Maribel's story is very different from Gabriela's. Perhaps most fascinating about Gabriela is that much of her real past remains unknown today, leaving Clark plenty of room to play with Maribel's tale.
I really love the inclusion of all the happenings of the time: Buffalo Bill, Oscar Wilde, spirit photography, and the mentions of Madame Blavatsky. Clark so carefully draws the reader into the time period that it becomes an all encompassing experience but it also makes the book a much more dense read as the pacing is greatly slowed by so much detail.
I really wanted to love this book, I just couldn't. I'd definitely recommend reading this one when you have a good while to devote attention to it. Personally, the weather's played havoc with my sinuses and made it hard to concentrate on much of anything at all this week. I may have enjoyed it much more had I not been fighting a distracting rhinovirus on top of diving into nineteenth century politics. To be completely honest, though, the cold wasn't the only thing stopping me from getting lost in this book. I started and stopped and started again after a bit of a break, to no avail. I'm not immune to the appeal of the story, which is why I trudged on -- it just never did hit my like I'd hoped it would.
To see the rest of the tour stops, visit the official TLC tour page here.