Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lie by Fredrica Wagman

This book was totally not what I expected it to be. Honestly, I really had no expectations, it's been in my to-read pile forever and I finally just got to it. But even with no expectations, it completely surprised me. This review may contain spoilers, it is incredibly difficult to talk about without giving away plot. But I think it will be okay, if you plan on reading the book - I don't think anything I discuss will ruin the story in any way.
Ramona Smollens is seventeen when she meets the man she will marry, just one month after meeting him. Their meeting is very strange, and sets the tone for the rest of their relationship. The entire novel takes place inside Ramona's head, with her as a narrator. And what an unreliable narrator she is! The "Lie" of the title is complicated - Ramona's entire life seems to be a lie, as she has lied to herself and others for so long. But really, the Lie for Ramona seems to be that love and sex and marriage can bring happiness and fulfillment to life. Ramona has believed in the promise that she was told by the sirens of the silver screen, Rita Hayworth in particular, that she will be swept off her feet with passion, and sex will come easy to her, and she will be happy. But none of this happens. And so Ramona lies, to her parents, to her husband, to herself. And she lives within the lies that society has told her, and the lies she believes that her husband is telling her. And within her narration, it is sometimes impossible to tell the truth from the fiction.
The writing itself is not what I was used to. Wagman uses a sort of stream of consciousness style, with sentences that seems to go on forever, broken up by elipses and dashes. But it always makes sense, and the style never distracts from the story. It only adds to the sense of madness that we get from Ramona. She is entirely obsessed with Rita Hayworth, and entirely obsessed with the idea of herself as a woman. She grew up in a household that destroyed her soul, and made her seemingly incapable of real feeling. This book was really a fascinating read, and would be a terrific choice for a book club. There is so much here to discuss! I read it in a few hours, it just flies by. If this review has made the book sound interesting at all, I would definitely say go pick it up. You may not like the story, or Ramona, but you won't forget it, and you won't regret picking up this book for a glimpse into the way the Lies of our society can alter a life.

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