Synopses & Reviews
It is 1704 and, while the Sun King Louis XIV rules France from the splendour of Versailles, Louisiana, the new and vast colony named in his honour, is home to fewer than two hundred souls. When a demand is sent requesting wives be dispatched for the struggling settlers, Elisabeth is among the twenty-three girls who set sail from France to be married to men of whom they know absolutely nothing. Educated and skeptical, Elisabeth has little hope for happiness in her new life. It is to her astonishment that she, alone among the brides, finds herself passionately in love with her new husband, Jean-Claude, a charismatic and ruthlessly ambitious soldier.
Auguste, a poor cabin boy from Rochefort, must also adjust to a startlingly unexpected future. Abandoned in a remote native village, he is charged by the colonys governor with mastering the tribes strange language while reporting back on their activities. It is there that he is befriended by Elisabeths husband as he begins the slow process of assimilation back into life among the French.
The love Elisabeth and Auguste share for Jean-Claude changes both of their lives irrevocably. When in time he betrays them both, they find themselves bound together in ways they never anticipated.
With the same compelling prose and vividly realized characters that won her widespread acclaim for THE GREAT STINK and THE NATURE OF MONSTERS, Clare Clark takes us deep into the heart of colonial French Louisiana.
"Clark's fourth novel (after Savage Lands) offers an informative if disjointed portrait of the Victorian era, encompassing socialist politics, spiritualism, economic crisis, tabloid journalism, Buffalo Bill's Wild West, and family secrets. Maribel Campbell Lowe is the wife of an earnest MP, whose passion for the socialist cause puts his political career at risk. Maribel's photography hobby brings her into contact both with the Indians of Buffalo Bill's show and the growing spiritualist movement, whose members are fascinated by the possibility of spirits appearing in photographs, a sometimes accidental and often duplicitous practice. The core of the book is Maribel's personal history, a secret life she has hidden at the cost of losing her family. When a devious newspaper editor comes close to revealing her past, and destroying her reputation and her husband's career, bright, resourceful Maribel must take a stand. Individual vignettes Maribel's photo studio, the lively spirit of the Wild West Show, her husband's involvement with socialism will charm devotees of the Victorian era, but no meaningful connection between them is made, and the novel bursts at the seams as Clark struggles to wrap them up by the end. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Associates. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A stirring and seductive novel."—Economist
"Clare Clarks fiction manages to maintain historical accuracy even as it indulges in great storytelling and lush prose...a captivating fable of truth and memory, Beautiful Lies
speaks to us quietly yet with strength."—New York Times Book Review
"[An] engaging, compulsively readable window into Victorian society."—Library Journal
"An enthralling novel about an elaborate fiction, Beautiful Lies
dazzles with its presentations of late Victorian Londons political and social occupations and a remarkable woman with something to hide... An unpredictable, historically authentic take on how we all carry secrets."—Booklist
Praise for Clare Clark:
"One of those writers who can see into the past and help us feel its texture."—Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall "As a storyteller, Clark is endowed with verve and intelligence, but her larger gift, dazzlingly in evidence throughout both her fine novels, lies in the originality of her imagination. She gives us a world that feels alive and intense, magnificently raw."—New York Times Book Review "Clarks commitment to historical color is matched by the dramatic arc of an engrossing story." —Washington Post "Clare Clark writes with the eyes of a historian and the soul of a novelist."—Amanda Foreman "An uplifting and ultimately optimistic tale, as well as being impressively narrated. The historical context is sound, and the plot thoroughly engages the reader. It is based on real figures and their circumstances, which are not widely known. This is a wonderful story; I have read Clare Clarks previous three novels, all of which have been reviewed by the HNS, and this is by far the best." —Historical Novels Society
"The author treats the founding of French Louisiana with her signature dark realism and beautiful handling of character, plot, and pacing. Readers of Clark's earlier novels will enjoy this; it should also appeal to those interested in women's, French, New Orleans, or colonial-period history and in Native Americans." -- Library Journal "Clarks vast store of historical and geographical detail enriches the portraits of her three vibrant characters, whose destinies are inextricably, and memorably, bound." --Booklist
PRAISE FOR THE GREAT STINK
"Clark's triumph is that she makes us see and smell everything we politely pretend not to, and she even manages to give the miasma its own kind of beauty . . . The book is literally breathtaking."--The New York Times Book Review
"The Great Stink is a trove of olfactory poetry . . . a crackerjack historical novel that combines the creepy intrigue of Caleb Carr, the sensory overload of Peter Ackroyd and the academic curiosity of A. S. Byatt."—Los Angeles Times
PRAISE FOR THE NATURE OF MONSTERS
"As a storyteller, Clark is endowed with verve and intelligence, but her larger gift, dazzlingly in evidence throughout both her fine novels, lies in the originality of her imagination. She gives us a world that feels alive and intense, magnificently raw."—The New York Times Book Review
"The pleasures here are many, and one hopes this latest excursion into the underside of historic London won't be her last."—BookForum
"Clark's fiction manages to maintain historical accuracy even as it indulges in great storytelling and lush prose. . . . Her central character, Maribel Campbell Lowe, is the beautiful, chain-smoking wife of a radical Scottish M.P. . . . She develops the story gently, with revelations about Maribel's past folded carefully into scenes from the present, yielding a complex tapestry of tales. A captivating fable of truth and memory." -- Andrea Wulf, The New York Times Book Review "Beautiful Lies presents us with a couple who would surely be counted among our Beautiful People today. . . . .The whole novel is carefully constructed and full of wonderful details about the period. You can see that the Victorian Age is a mirror image of our own. And Edward and Maribel are touching, funny, brave, and sweet." -- Carolyn See, The Washington Post "The charm of Beautiful Lies is that Clark breaks the usual Victorian moral code, exploring both the colorful world outside the drawing room and the depths of her characters' minds. A stirring and seductive novel." - The Economist "Clark plays with the ideas of identity and image, while incorporating the Bloody Sunday riots, Buffalo Bill Cody's Will West Show, and the growing interest in Spiritualism. . . .Beautiful Lies takes its time to develop, but its portrait of a woman determined to decide for herself who she is and a society less stable and comfortable than it imagines is a rich one well worth studying." -- The Christian Science Monitor Praise for Clare Clark: "One of those writers who can see into the past and help us feel its texture." -Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall "As a storyteller, Clark is endowed with verve and intelligence, but her larger gift, dazzlingly in evidence throughout both her fine novels, lies in the originality of her imagination. She gives us a world that feels alive and intense, magnificently raw."—New York Times Book Review "Clarks commitment to historical color is matched by the dramatic arc of an engrossing story." --Washington Post "Clare Clark writes with the eyes of a historian and the soul of a novelist." - Amanda Foreman
PRAISE FOR THE GREAT STINK"In rich Dickensian detail, Clark creates the whole city teeming with life and decay . . . Its a gripping exploration of the unmentionable currents that run beneath the surface of our livesand it reeks of talent."THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD"A crackerjack historical novel that combines the creepy intrigue of Caleb Carr, the sensory overload of Peter Ackroyd and the academic curiosity of A. S. Byatt."LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Clark's empathetic portrait of the powerless and the victimized will remind many readers of Dickens."
"Brave, full-hearted . . .A compelling story which will draw in, for different reasons, fans of Sarah Waters' dense narrative complexities and Andrew Miller's metaphysical horrors. Clark meets the 18th century on its own terms: knocks its wig off, twists its private parts and spits in its eye."
"Clark has talent and energy to burn."
Crisp, assured, and relentlessly pungent. One does not so much read The Great Stink as smell, hear and taste it.
PRAISE FOR THE GREAT STINK
"Clare Clark writes with the eyes of a historian and the soul of a novelist. The Great Stink is a compelling journey through the dark and mysterious underworld of Victorian London."--Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
"Its world is so lovingly evoked and its plot so gripping that it can only have been born of a consuming passion. To read The Great Stink is to experience that most exquisite of bookish pleasures: total immersion."--Time Out London
"Clark transforms the network of underground tunnels, through which the capital disposed of its waste, into a phantasmagoric dreamscape . . . An impressive debut." - The Times Literary Supplement
"Recall[s] Robert Louis Stevenson in Mr. Hyde mode. Here's a talent to watch."
"The true history of the Salter family lies at the heart of a web of secrecy and deception that is gradually unravelled... as the family realise that they are trapped in a cyclical pattern of their own creation."—The Times Literary Supplement
"A really terrific read... Elegant, well written, genuinely gripping."—Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat
"Absolutely searing... we have a major new talent in our midst."—Daily Express
"Gillies handles her large cast and clashing version of events with a precision that makes reading this imaginative novel a fascinating process of discovery."—Metro
"The prose is elegant and beautiful, and Gillies has a skill for creating both character and a sense of place; Peattie is so vividly described that I had no trouble imagining the crumbling interior or the sun-baked loch. I couldn't put The White Lie down."—For Book's Sake
"Gillies excels both at describing the landscape and at delineating those subcutaneous secrets and shared assumptions that bind families together."—Literary Review
"Fizzing with energy, suspense, and tense dialogue, this is an elegantly brilliant novel."—Red Magazine
"Andrea Gillies, winner of the 2009 Wellcome Trust Book Prize and the Orwell Prize for 2010, writes in The White Lie as if she herself lived in Peattie House, as if she draped the dust sheets in the rooms of the dead. As frustratingly obtuse and uncommunicative as many of the Salters are, the author encourages our understanding by artfully teasing out hurts, coping mechanisms and shortcomings many would recognize."—Book of the Month, Scots Magazine
"By the time I was half way through the book I was returning to it at every spare moment to find out what happened and it really wasn't what I was expecting..."—Bookbag
"Alongside an urge to uncover the truth, one feels a kind of pity for this big old family, flailing in the modern world in which aristocracy has no place... The tug of justice goes against the tug of family, loyalty towards an individual against loyalty towards something bigger and older than that. It is a tension that makes for a truly gripping read."—Emily Rhodes, Fiction Uncovered
"A wonderfully compelling portrait of a family haunted by secrets and lies...pitch perfect on the chilling, devastating consequences of guilt."—Sally Brampton
"A white lie is, by convention, a harmless thing… Gillies explores in this novel how such lies may be very far from innocent in intention or in effect… the truth beginning to work its way to the surface, like a swollen and decomposing corpse… She excels in her portrait of a landscape that consumes the merely human—eats it for lunch, as it were—and has slowly, over many generations, created a family in its own image."—Helen Dunmore, The Times
"A subtle and sustained exercise in slowly revealing a dense story. Gillies writes magnificently on everything she touches, be it family secrets, Highland light, or the nature of memory."—Sunday Times
"The White Lie is a story of decline, of a crumbling hierarchy taking desperate measures to save face (and the bloodline and the silver) before the hordes sweep them away. Yet, more than that, it is an account of the unreliability of personal history. Is a family story true because it is repeated? Does it matter in the end of the ‘truth is revealed, if the lie has been lived? This novel develops ideas of the fragility and fluidity of identity. We all self-mythologize. The strength of this immersive story is that it does not require neat revelations. The White Lie is, even with its detours, a page-turner. It is also, finally, very moving."—Francine Stock, Guardian
"Gillies's descriptions are precise, particularly of gardens, food and clothes, and often wry. Gillies relishes the absurdities of dialogue... the slow torture of barely enunciated rivalries and feuds keeps the Salters at odds in a particularly cruel, sad and funny northern European way."—Guardian
"Theres an echo of Virginia Woolf, especially To the Lighthouse, that lifts Gillies work above the average family drama. The fact that she also keeps a tight hold of the gossipy strands of her story is a great credit to her powers, too, as well as her ability to keep her readers guessing the truth to the end. This is an unusual, unsettling, often lovely story that plumbs the depths of what family means. It is a fine debut novel."—Lesley McDowell, Scotsman
"A tense, taut tale of rumors and revelations, where festering guilt slowly unravels family secrets. Andrea Gillies beautifully-crafted debut combines page-turning aplomb with psychological insight. Ursula Salter claims to have killed her beautiful, angry young cousin Michael on the loch of her familys Highland estate. The family close ranks, and convince the locals that hes run away. Over the years, recriminations, shifting family loyalties and new relationships provoke seemingly unanswerable speculations: is Michael dead, who was his father, what was his relationship with Ursula? Gillies is a tantalizing storyteller, dropping in clues, vertiginous surprises and unexpected revelations."—Marie Claire
"Set in the Scottish highlands, 13 years since young Michael Salters death was covered up by his aristocratic family. As past truths emerge, a web of deception unravels. An intricate, well-observed novel of secrets and guilt."—Woman & Home
"There are many good things in Gilliess novel. Her feeling for atmosphere is sharp, and the care she takes with drawing the Salters land and mansion pays off, creating an almost tangible picture of a raddled, embattled domain, a vivid stage against which events unfold."—Rosemary Goring, Herald
"One hot summer day, Michael Salter, 19-year-old scion of a posh Highland family, disappears. When his childlike aunt claims she drowned him during a fight, the family close ranks. No police. No memorial service. No titbits for village gossips. A decade of deceit begins... Narrated by Michael from beyond the grave, Andrea Gillies's first venture into fiction after Keeper, her Orwell Prize-winning Alzheimer's memoir, unpicks the mesh of lies, some white, some not, that entangle the Salters... Gillies writes with a patrician elegance her characters might appreciate, bringing the closed world of the big house to life with cinematic clarity, the guilt-ridden residents as distressed as the threadbare furniture. The book has a pleasantly teasing quality, stealthily circling its central mysteries, challenging the reader to keep up while it flits between eras. A gripping exploration of the stories families tell about themselves, myths sometimes more potent than the truth."—Adrian Turpin, Financial Times
Sunday Times June 2012 - One of "100 Essential Books for Summer"
“An engaging saga about the Salter clan, loosely narrated by Michael from beyond the grave...Gilliess atmospheric prose perfectly complements this engrossing drama set against a creepy loch.” -- Publishers Weekly
"Gillies paints lovely, expansive landscapes and richly dimensional characters, which enhance the attractiveness of this intriguing first novel.” -- Booklist
is set in Victorian Britain; at its center is Maribel Campbell Lowe, the wife of a Scottish M.P. and a self-proclaimed Chilean heiress. But Maribel's life is based on a web of lies, and a newspaperman's uncommon interest in her could prove disastrous" —New York Times Book Review
London 1887. For Maribel Campbell Lowe, the beautiful bohemian wife of a maverick politician, it is the year to make something of herself. She is torn between poetry and the new art of photography. But it is soon plain that Maribels choices are not so simple. As her husbands career hangs by a thread, her real past, and the family she abandoned, come back to haunt them both. When the notorious newspaper editor Alfred Webster begins to ask pointed questions, she fears he will not only destroy Edwards career but both of their reputations.
From an award-winning novelist described by Hilary Mantel as "one of those writers who can see into the past and help us feel its texture," the story of the exotic wife of a Scottish aristocrat who is not what she seems, set against the backdrop of the cultured drawing rooms and emerging tabloid culture of late Victorian London.
Praised by Hilary Mantel, Amanda Foreman, and the New York Times Book Review for her “verve and intelligence . . . [and] the originality of her imagination,” Clare Clark has become a rising star in historical fiction. Elisabeth is among twenty-three girls who set sail from France for the new colony of Louisiana to be married to strangers. Although she has little hope for happiness in her new life, she finds herself passionately in love with her new husband, Jean-Claude, a charismatic and ruthlessly ambitious soldier. But betrayal is as much a part of the new world as the old, and when Elisabeth finds herself deceived by her husband she also finds herself bound to a poor cabin boy in a way she never anticipated. Clark creates a world that is both incredibly real and incredibly dazzling. And with the same compelling prose and vividly realized characters that won her widespread acclaim for The Great Stink and The Nature of Monsters, she takes us deep into the heart of colonial French Louisiana.
Clare Clarks critically acclaimed The Great Stink reeks of talent” (The Washington Post Book World) as it vividly brings to life the dark and mysterious underworld of Victorian London. Set in 1855, it tells the story of William May, an engineer who has returned home to London from the horrors of the Crimean War. When he secures a job transforming the citys sewer system, he believes that he will be able to find salvation in the subterranean world beneath the city. But the peace of the tunnels is shattered by a murder, and William is implicated as the killer. Could he truly have committed the crime? How will he bring the truth above-ground? With richly atmospheric prose, The Great Stink combines fact and fiction to transport readers into Londons putrid past, and marks the debut of a remarkably talented writer in the tradition of the very best historical novelists.
1666: The Great Fire of London sweeps through the streets and a heavily pregnant woman flees the flames. A few months later she gives birth to a child disfigured by a red birthmark.1718: Sixteen-year-old Eliza Tally sees the gleaming dome of St. Pauls Cathedral rising above a rebuilt city. She arrives as an apothecarys maid, a position hastily arranged to shield the father of her unborn child from scandal. But why is the apothecary so eager to welcome her when he already has a maid, a half-wit named Mary? Why is Eliza never allowed to look her veiled master in the face or go into the study where he pursues his experiments? It is only on her visits to the Huguenot bookseller who supplies her masters scientific tomes that she realizes the nature of his obsession. And she knows she has to act to save not just the child but Mary and herself.
“Clare Clark’s fiction manages to maintain historical accuracy even as it indulges in great storytelling and lush prose . . . A captivating fable of truth and memory, Beautiful Lies
speaks to us quietly yet with strength.” —New York Times Book Review
London 1887. For Maribel Campbell Lowe, the beautiful bohemian wife of a maverick politician, it is the year to make something of herself. A self-proclaimed Chilean heiress educated in Paris, she is torn between poetry and the new art of photography. But it is soon plain that Maribel’s choices are not so simple. As her husband’s career hangs by a thread, her real past, and the family she abandoned, come back to haunt them both. When the notorious newspaper editor Alfred Webster begins to take an uncommon interest in Maribel, she fears he will not only destroy Edward’s career but both of their reputations.
A journey into the wilds of French Louisiana, where a woman shipped from France as a bride and a boy raised by natives are joined by their love of a ruthless soldier, in the latest historical novel from Clare Clark.
It is 1855, and engineer William May has returned home to his beloved wife from the battlefields of the Crimea. He secures a job transforming London's sewer system and begins to lay his ghosts to rest. Above ground, his work is increasingly compromised by corruption, and cholera epidemics threaten the city. But it is only when the peace of the tunnels is shattered by murder that William loses his tenuous hold on sanity. Implicated in the crime, plagued by visions and nightmares, even he is not sure of his innocence. Long Arm Tom, who scavenges for valuables in the subterranean world of the sewers and cares for nothing and no one but his dog, Lady, is William's only hope of salvation. Will he bring the truth to light?
With extraordinarily vivid characters and unflinching prose that recall Year of Wonders and The Dress Lodger, The Great Stink marks the debut of an outstandingly talented writer in the tradition of the best historical novelists.
A gothic tale of a declining aristocratic Scottish family, their dilapidated mansion in the Scottish highlands, and the poisonous effects of the secrets and tragedies it holds.
“One hot summer day, Michael Salter, nineteen-year-old scion of a posh Highland family, disappears. When his childlike aunt claims she drowned him during a fight, the family close ranks. No police. No memorial service. No titbits for village gossips. A decade of deceit begins.” — Financial Times
The Salter family orbits around Peattie House, their crumbling Scottish highlands estate filled with threadbare furniture, patrician memories, and all their inevitable secrets. While gathered to celebrate grandmother's seventieth birthday, someone breaks the silence. The web begins to unravel. But what is the white lie? How many others are built upon it? How many lives have been shaped by its shadow? Only one person knows the whole truth. From beyond the grave, Michael loops back into the past until we see, beyond perception and memory, how deeply our decisions resound, and just what is the place—and price—of grandeur.
About the Author
CLARE CLARK is the author of four novels, including The Great Stink, which was long-listed for the Orange Prize and named a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and Savage Lands, also long-listed for the Orange Prize. Her work has been translated into five languages. She lives in London.