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Beautiful Lies

3.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  520 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
London in 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, ...more
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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If Maribel had not smoked, I'm guessing that this historical fiction would have been a good 25 pages shorter. But Maribel smoked, and we read about where she got her cigarettes, how she felt before, during, after smoking, how the ashtrays overflowed, how the smoke and the tips of the cigarettes looked, much more than I ever wanted to know about this particular habit of hers. Not only did she smoke obsessively, the author described it obsessively.

Maribel was the wife of a late-19th century libera
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Words always fail when I'm really in love with a novel; a problem made worse when the novel in question is written in lush, lovely, dense, tangled, photographic, poetic prose. How do I compete?? Here's my try:

Set in the late 1880s, the novel follows Maribel Campbell Lowe, a stunning foreign beauty who smokes too much (in an era when only 'loose women' smoked!), is married to a radical Member of Parliament who supports socialism and reform, who yearns for the passion and inspiration that comes fr
Mar 08, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical
Right. The main character is a selfish, reckless woman who can't understand that her actions have consequences (and not just for herself). She disdains things that are "other" and wonders why everyone else isn't grateful and appreciative of her heartache.Most of her characterization is tied to her smoking, which could have been interesting if a)the details of it weren't so excessive (though I guess the cover of the novel foreshadowed this) and b) if it wasn't her only unique trait.

It may sound h
Oct 22, 2012 Cynthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Victorian History

I’m a Victorian fiction lover, both classic and recently written. Clare Clark has written a wonderfully researched semi-mystery in “Beautiful Lies”. I didn’t love it but I sure liked it a lot. I was reminded of the Anne Perry’s Thomas Pitt series both in Clark’s writing style as well as the setting and the unusual, for the times, marriage. The main characters are Maribel and Edward Campbell Lowe. She’s an aspiring poet and a somewhat successful photographer and he’s a radical me
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I've read 'The Nature of Monsters' and 'The Great Stink' by Clare Clark and thought they were both excellent novels, both are well written, with engaging characters, believable relationships and plausible dialogue. I highly recommend them for readers who enjoy historical fiction.

I also tried to read 'Savage Lands' by Clare Clark and found myself giving up without finishing, which is what happened with 'Beautiful Lies'. I read over 200 pages of this book and wasn't compelled to continue. Part of
Sep 26, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing
I don't know what to say about Beautiful Lies. It is so vivid, with Victorian images in the late 19th century, London. It played like a movie. I loved the author's style of writing. Her writing is so poetic. I could picture Trafalgar Square in London.

There is so much packed in this novel, it goes everywhere. At times I think it just is too much, what was the author thinking. But, it does works with Beautiful Lies.

There is lots of underlying mystery of smoking Maribel. What a scandal, a high soc
Stephanie Ward
Oct 08, 2012 Stephanie Ward rated it it was amazing
'Beautiful Lies' is a work of literary/historical fiction that chronicles the private life of Maribel Campbell Lowe, her family's hidden past, and a scandalous newspaper editor that threatens to destroy Maribel and her husband.

Clark did an impeccable job with this novel. Her writing style flowed effortlessly and I was transported back in time alongside Maribel from the very first page. The descriptions of the time and the various settings of the novel were done in such a way that I could simply
Well. My overall impression is that it is a carefully written book with a heavily historical "feel", but one that ultimately lacks a powerful plot or final impression at all. I expected that the story would revolve around the terrible newspaperman's threat to reveal Maribel's background OR something about Maribel getting involved in spiritualism, but it didn't. I'm not 100% sure WHAT it revolved around: Maribel's discovery of photography as a medium? Her husband's battle for human rights in Engl ...more
Dec 07, 2012 Jo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
A little disappointing.

I really like The Nature of Monsters, but gave up on The Great Stink, which I found really wordy with a storyline that kept going off on weird tangents. I think the building of the sewer system in London is a fascinating subject, but the concept was very much drowned in unnecessary fluff.

With that being said I was hoping The Great Stink was just a blimp in this author’s repertoire and that Beautiful Lies would again restore my love of this author and her take on Victorian
Timothy Phillips
Nov 18, 2012 Timothy Phillips rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this book, which is based on true stories from the 1880s in Britain. The plot is inventive and the characters appealing - both the heroes and the villains. Clare Clark clearly has an eye for attractive detail. She also has a strong moral compass, which I found added to my enjoyment of the book without ever becoming preachy. It is, in many ways, a book about socialism and social activism.

The reason this is a four- and not a five-star review, then, is Clark's rendering of late-n
Feb 12, 2013 Sara rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and I certainly know a ton more about late 1800s London now. This book covers a lot - Buffalo Bill's Wild West, the queen's golden jubilee, a massive Socialist rebellion in Trafalgar square, photography techniques, fashion, and so on. Although I enjoyed learning about all of that, I marked it 4 stars instead of 5 because I sometimes felt like the author was more concerned with including historical events than a strong plot. There were plenty of story lines and some exc ...more
Jan 08, 2013 Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I loved this book! I thought it was an excellent combination of an interesting historical period - with some very interesting parallels with the time we are living in now - and the story of one couple and their families. What makes it even more interesting is the rigour of the historical information and the fact that it is a fictional account of a factual story. Nothing so syrange as real life! The author graduated from Trinity College Cambridge with a double first in history - and you can tell. ...more
Nov 18, 2012 Justine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting premise and depiction of the political happenings during the Victorian era.

There was way too many characters and superfluous details. I get that we were supposed to be in the time period; however, the novel went on too long. I found that my interest ebbed and flowed...sometimes I found a portion of the chapter absolutely fascinating, an intriguing mystery, at other times the book was droll.

Had it not been a book club book, I would have put it down and given up in the first 50 pages
Recommended in The Economist, I found it hard to become fond of Maribel. This main character, who has several different names throughout the book, meets and marries her husband as he becomes her client in a brothel. Edward later becomes a member of British Parliament and Maribel's past could be his downfall should it become known. Melodrama and class strife in Victorian England. Had promise but didn't deliver. Interesting bits of history, though. Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in London provides ...more
Nov 14, 2012 Steena rated it really liked it
I would say this book is more about style and atmosphere than plot, which is one of my favorite things about it. There's a story, a climax and tension, things happen, but I would not say that was the point of this book. It's about moods - how it feels to smoke too many cigarettes, how tiresome it is to have an unagreeable dinner guest, the fear of scandal in uppercrust aristocracy. Lovely book, splendid writing.
Jean Boobar
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Aug 06, 2015 Estelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, if you don't know her yet, Clare Clark is a Cambridge University historian as well as being a great novelist. This is the third of her novels that I've read this year but not the strongest, in my view. For me, by far the best is "Savage Lands" which is set in Colonial Louisiana (but that's possibly because I lived in Louisiana for a while and I've always been fascinated by the Colonial period in U.S. culture). This novel, "Beautiful Lies", like "The Great Stink", is set in Victorian London: ...more
May 25, 2014 Savannah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've forced myself to read past pg. 100 because Clare Clark has been one of my exalted authors whose works I admire--THE GREAT STINK and THE NATIRE OF MONSTERS are amazing, admirable tours de force. I kept trying to like this book despite other reviewers' thoughts about it; Clark KNOWS her character is insipid and vapid. But I just can't take it anymore. There's no mystery to these pages, nothing drawing me in, it's mostly "tell and no show" and I don't care about any of the characters in it, or ...more
Graham Crawford
May 20, 2014 Graham Crawford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most exquisite books I have read in a while and pushes Clare Clark way up the list of my favourite writers of Historical Fiction. This novel is the (mostly) true story of the Cunningehame Grahams - of whom close friend George Bernard Shaw wrote that if anyone were to tell this story as a fiction, no one would believe it! Clark takes up this challenge - and cheekily changes the names of these two larger than life characters. And George Bernard Shaw didn't know half this bizarre ...more
Dec 06, 2014 Nicola rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dull. Dull politics. Dull characters. Dull.

Elspeth G. Perkin
"One made of one's life what one was able"...and then there's Mrs. Campbell Lowe

Although Beautiful Lies was an elegant historical novel that captured multiple locations in Europe during 1887, I am sorry I did not enjoy this promenade of secrets and deceptions. This novel immersed this reader into familiar and enthralling details but lost me on the pacing and the repetitious nature and habits of the characters. A lot of patience is asked of the reader and perhaps I was not in the mood to submit,
Sharon Chance
Sep 26, 2012 Sharon Chance rated it it was amazing
Secrets, lies, deciet and love swirl throughout the life of a Victorian-era politician's wife in Clare Clark's mesmerizing novel, "Beautiful Lies."

Clark gives her readers a camera-lens view of the life of Maribel Campbell Lowe, who on the surface seems to be proper wife to her English politician husband. She entertains, she dabbles in amateur photography, she writes poetry - all the things a sedate lady would do. But Maribel has secrets, a web of lies and deciet that could possibly tear apart he
Natasha M.
Jan 16, 2013 Natasha M. rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 01, 2013 Shilo rated it liked it
This book was not terrible but it was definitely not amazing either. It took me almost 3 months to read this book which is usually unheard of for me. I found it to be very slow moving but it was interesting the parallels it made from a time in the late 1800's to our present day status of economics and politics. History is to teach us to not make the same mistakes, but that is not always the case. We do not always learn from the mistakes of others as this book finely shows. There was a lot of ant ...more
Nov 03, 2014 Becky rated it it was ok
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 loca ...more
Sep 21, 2012 Serena rated it liked it
Maribel Campbell Lowe’s Beautiful Lies (by Clare Clark) ensure that she is mysterious to the reader and London society from the beginning, but as the prose unfolds, readers get glimpses into her past as she attempts to navigate her life in the confines of a London society on the verge of change, in which seances and photography are gaining admirers. Married to radical politician Edward Campbell Lowe, Maribel is thrust into a society full of expectation and one that is changing, but her fateful m ...more
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
(originally published at

The basics: Set in 1887 London, Beautiful Lies is the story of Maribel Campbell Lowe, whose husband Edward Campbell Lowe is a politician. Maribel was born in Chile and educated in Paris. When a letter arrives from her estranged mother asking to meet in London, their picture perfect life begins to unravel.

My thoughts: One challenge with historical fiction can be making characters both true to their time and accessibly to contemporary reader
Oct 04, 2012 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel based on fact and knowing that makes the reading all the more interesting. Edward Campbell Lowe is a member of Parliament fighting for the rights of the poor at a time in England's history where there is a great divide between the rich and the downtrodden. He is married to Maribel, a woman with a mysterious past. She is dabbling in poetry and exploring photography but in reality she is running from the demons of her true background that are slowly catching up to her threatening t ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel is based on a true story of a British member of Parliament and his exotically beautiful wife who lived in the Victorian Age. The liberal MP was instrumental in forming what is now the Labour Party in England. In the novel, his name is Edward Campbell Lowe and he, despite his wealth, is able to see the plight of the poor in London and moves to set it right. His party opposes him, but he never backs down, to the point of being imprisoned for taking part in a workers' strike and getting b ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

CLARE CLARK is the author of The Great Stink, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and The Nature of Monsters.
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“Edward Campbell Lowe was a radical in his blood and in his bones... his maternal grandfather had famously made a bonfire with a valuable portrait of the Marquess of Bute because, he had declared, it was more than a man could stomach to encounter a Tory every morning before breakfast.” 0 likes
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