Beautiful Lies, Hardback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


It is 1887, and an unsettled London is preparing for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

For Maribel Campbell Lowe, the beautiful, bohemian wife of a maverick politician, it is the year she plans to make her own mark on the world.

But her husband's outspoken views inspire enmity as well as admiration - and the wife of a member of parliament should not be hiding the kind of secrets Maribel has buried in her past.

When a notorious newspaper editor begins to take an uncommon interest in her, Maribel fears he will destroy not only her husband's career but both of their reputations. "Beautiful Lies" is set in a Jubilee year that, fraught with economic uncertainty, riots and tabloid scandal-mongering, uncannily presages our own.

Praised by Hilary Mantel as 'one of those writers who can see into the past and help us feel its texture', Clark has created a brilliant, riveting novel that illuminates both Victorian England and our own times.


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Maribel Campbell-Lowe (half French, half Spanish, raised in Chile) is the embodiment of the late-Victorian New Woman; her husband, Edward, inheritor of an impoverished Scottish estate, is the radical rising star of the Socialist Party - but as we soon find out, Maribel has secrets that only her husband knows, and that if these should be made public, it would be disgrace for her, and the end of his political career. So far, she has lived out this "beautiful lie", but now she fears journalist Alfred Webster could be about to expose her, partly to bring down her husband.This is a meticulously researched, meticulously evocative portrait of the late 1880s, beautifully characterised and beautifully written. Clare Clark plays with may levels of deception and pretence throughout - Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, which is taking London by storm, Maribel's passion for photography (and the vogue for "spirit" photographs), the rise of investigative journalism, the young Maribel's passion to go on the stage and its consequences, a possible gold mine in Spain that could save the family estate ... (if I have a niggle, there seemed perhaps to be "too much" being drawn in to the narrative).All in all though, this is a glorious slice of Victoriana, richly characterised and extremely moving in chronicling Maribel's story and how her whole life .becomes her greatest roleAnd it is based on fact, Edward and Maribel Campbell-Lowe have real-life counterparts in the Socialist MP and founder member of the Labour Party, Robert Cunninghame-Graham, and his "French / Spanish" wife, Gabriela. Alfred Webster is a possibly more unpleasant version of the famous campaigning journalist, William Stead (who brought to light a number of MP's scandalous liaisons)

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