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The Lie by Fredrica Wagman

The Lie (edition 2009)

by Fredrica Wagman

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219495,208 (3.45)None
Title:The Lie
Authors:Fredrica Wagman
Info:Hanover, N.H. : Zoland Books, c2009.
Collections:Read but unowned, Reviewed, For Review
Tags:Fiction, Sex/Sexuality, FSB Associates

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The Lie: A Novel by Fredrica Wagman



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I did not know what, exactly, I was expecting when I began reading this book but it was, surely not what I found. This book is 214 pages that recount the psychology of a girl/woman & her journey to self. Growing up with the mind set of the 50's, the books protagonist, Ramona, takes us through her life; a life in which she finds a myriad of heart break and bewilderment; loss & sorrow. From the abusive home in which Ramona grows up - the daughter of an abusive father and a narcissistic mother - to the sorrows of marriage to ' the most understanding of men ' - we view Ramona's struggle to survive her deepest pains & sorrows.

I found this book to be unique for sure. It was dark & a bit disturbing to me. This book can be read as a metaphor for some of the struggles that women, in general, face. I am not certain that this book would be for everyone but I will say that it provides you with a lot to think about. I believe that Ms. Wagman has real talent for getting to the pith of matters and that she relates her take on things in a most unusual, beautifully written, way.

Thanks to Julie from FSB for sending this book to me for review ( )
  zquilts | Nov 15, 2009 |
I should start out this review by admitting that there is no style of writing I loathe more than stream of consciousness. This deep loathing started long ago in high school when I came face to face with To the Lighthouse. I read the book, hating every moment of it, left only with a long-standing dislike of the narrative technique. I mean, why do we only seem to get stream of consciousness from disturbed narrators? Are normal characters too boring to have the reader live exclusively inside their heads? Or is it something more insidious at work? Whatever the case, I admit to never having grown past the dislike, not in high school, not in college, and not in grad school. In fact, if a review mentions this type of narration, I quickly head the other direction, without the book in hand. And had I paid more attention and done my research properly, I would have easily discovered that this book is written in stream of consciousness, thereby never having much of a chance with me.

The book opens with young Ramona Smollens sitting on a park bench just after her overbearing and abusive father's unexpected death. Solomon Columbus, an older man attracted to her beauty, sits down next to her and she, alternately fascinated and repulsed by his penis fingers (and no, I still haven't come up with a satisfying visual of how they can be described this way, not that I think I want to), takes him home, sneaks him into her apartment, and proceeds to live and breathe sex with him for several days right under the nose of her cold, judgmental, and emotionally unavailable mother.

Ramona goes on to marry Solomon but her past never quite leaves her behind. As we skate through her disordered thoughts, we learn of her relationship with her creepy father, her inability to enjoy sex, her obessesion and certitude concerning Solomon having an affair, and most of all, her belief, stemming from her earlier adoration of Rita Hayworth that she is seeing the actress who she believes is stalking her in an effort to claim Solomon herself. Ramona is clearly delusional and disturbed and it is completely and totally uncomfortable to be forced into her throughts at almost all times throughout the narration of the story. She is the consummate unreliable narrator even though she is only narrating her version of the truth. Of course, she cannot help but tell some truths, even if inadvertantly, as we find out when Solomon narrates a small section.

Many other readers enjoyed the book and its inevitable end but I disliked Ramona from the get-go and have the aforementioned aversion to stream of consciousness narration and so found the book to be a difficult, unrewarding, and unhappy reading experience. There was a lot of repetition in Ramona's descriptors and while that may indeed be a legitimate portrayal of the way in which a disturbed character's mind works, it did not make for interesting and appealing reading. The unconventional punctuation was difficult to adjust to and that, coupled with the completely non-linearity of Ramona's thoughts sounded the death knell for me with this book. It is a very slim book and yet it took far more time to read than I ever would have expected. Not my kind of book but those who enjoy stream of consciousness would definitely start out on a better foot wit this than I did.

Thanks to Julie at FSB Associates for sending me a review copy of this book. ( )
  whitreidtan | Nov 1, 2009 |
Ramona Smollens did not have much of a childhood. Her father abused her and her mother did nothing to either encourage or stop him. At age 17, she patterns her sexual identity from her silver screen idol, Rita Hayworth, whose father abused her at a young age.

While sitting on a park bench, Ramona meets Solomon Columbus. She is instantly attracted to him and they sneak back to her mother's attic and spend four days having sex. They are soon married, all of this taking place shortly after the death of her father. The sad life of Ramona is tested further as she suspects her husband of infidelity and is forced to cope with her mother's illness.

The story is told from Ramona's point of view and uses a literary device known as stream of consciousness. Basically, this means that the prose is meant to portray Ramona's actual thoughts. The text jumps and rolls, mimicking her jumbled thoughts and ideas. Do not expect to read standard sentences and paragraphs. The words flow from Ramona's damaged mind. This makes for some wonderfully imaginative reading. It is quite vivid and, in places, very disturbing.

The writing is creative and a pleasure to read, but the subject matter is very dark. Ramona projects her own insecurities and damaged sexual identity on her husband, accusing him of being unfaithful. She turns to her mother for support even though she has never received support of any kind from her mother. She then has to cope with her mother's illness and the feelings that she has and does not have.

I had no idea what was going on for the first 50 pages or so. But then I figured it out and was hooked. I went back and re-read the first part of the book after I finished and enjoyed that even more. Wagman has imagined the workings of Ramona's mind to the most minute detail. Be prepared to cheer for Ramona, but also be prepared to pity her as well.

The book is only 214 pages. It took me considerably longer to read than I had at first thought. The unconventional use of punctuation slows the reading. However, I did not mind. I found the book unlike anything I had previously read. It really makes you stop and think. Are there common elements in my thought process?

About the Author:

Fredrica Wagman was born in 1940 in Philadelphia. She attended the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College. She has four grown children and lives with her husband in New York City. Fredrica Wagman is the author of six previous novels including Playing House. ( )
  mniday | Sep 25, 2009 |
The book is a short one. About 200 pages long. It covers the life of Ramona Smollens. She didn't have much of a life to begin with. Her father treated her horribly. Her mother didn't care and was more concerned about herself. She lives with her mother, as her father had recently passed away. Yet her mother still treats her like dirt. So, in order to get away from this she married an older man; Solomon Columbus. Thinking married life is as glamorous as they make it out to be in Hollywood, Ramona emulates starlet Rita Hayworth. It isn't until later when she realizes that married life and everything else with it,isn't how the movies say it is. She then sees that everything she's tried to imitate is all part of "the lie".

It's hard to describe how I felt while reading The Lie by Fredrica Wagman. It was strange. It's in first person narrative yet you're reading through her stream of thoughts. They're all jarbled and they fleet from one thing to another. It's hard to make out the dialogue and then you suddenly realize she's talking to herself (not out loud, but talking to herself mentally). It's difficult to get used to at first. I think it's because there's so much use of the hyphens and everything is just all a mess. I think what's trying to be done is to show how much of a mess Ramona is inside, whereas on the outside she's different.

As you go further into the novel where she really starts acting irrational, you start to wonder what's real and what's not. At this point, I try to make out what's really going on through this story, and even now I'm still not sure but I got the general idea. As you look into Ramona's relationship with her mother (which isn't that great but Ramona puts up with it). Now, her mother is a selfish uncaring person, she's also one of those evil old vipers you sometimes see on television, who are so narcissistic you just want to leave them locked in a room filled with mirrors and they'd probably be happy for the rest of their lives. However, as you get to know her mother through the eyes of Ramona, and towards the end of the story, you start to see that Ramona inevitably starts becoming more like her mother. It's actually rather horrible to see.

Overall an interesting read, albeit rather difficult to get into and I had a rather hard time following. Although the ending is sad and unexpected, you're left feeling rather sober and serious. ( )
1 vote sensitivemuse | Aug 19, 2009 |
This review is originally posted on my book review blog -
Falling Off The Shelf (http://fallingofftheshelf.blogspot.com)

Title : The Lie : A Novel
Author : Fredrica Wagman
Publisher : Zoland Books
Genre : Contemporary
ISBN : 978-1-58642-157-1
Series : No
Rating : 4

From The Publisher :

Ramona Smollens has a chance meeting on a park bench with an older man, Solomon Columbus. The two became lovers, and soon Ramona is leaving the home of her mother and recently deceased father for marriage and the trappings of adult life. She takes with her a dark family secret, the sort of secret one simply did not talk about, one that would stalk her as she matured into her role as wife and mother. Coming of age in 1950s America, Ramona gets her cues about a woman's role from the world around her, and about female sexuality from the silver screen. But when experience teaches her that Hollywood's ideal is in fact "the lie," truth and desire collide with a force that is deeply moving and unforgettable.

Review :

Romona Smollens has lived her whole life completely ignored. The day she meets Mr. Soloman Columbus is the first day she feels as though she is someone. He sits down beside her on a bench across from Belgravia Hotel. If not for his ten penis-like fingers, and the sadness that seems to emanate off of him, Romana isn't sure if she would have even noticed him. He is nothing special, except that he listens to her every word, and makes her feel as though she is the center of his world.

Shortly after their meeting Rsmona finds herself marrying Mr. Solomon Columbus, but why?, is it because she truly loves him or because he is infatuated with her as no one else has ever been. Ramona isn't sure, she's not even sure she knows what love is and what it should feel like. She just knows that he loves her, and she must do everything to keep him by her side, even if it means to Lie.

Every night Mr. Colombus rolls atop Ramona, and goes about 'making-love' to her. She's unsure what this could possibly mean, especially because she can't feel a thing down there, she's completely frozen. That doesn't mean he has to know about it though, and so she pretends she's having the time of her life, as though she were her beloved Rita Hayworth, the goddess of the flamenco and sex.

Her lies build up inside her, creating a sort of wall against the real world. She can't seem to tell the truth regardless of how hard she tries, and it makes it worse when she realizes that her husband may have someone else on the side. How could he do such a thing to her? How can he come home every night to her smelling of that woman, of her rich gardenia perfume! It becomes an obsession for Ramona, to find her husband's mistress, and make him stop the lies.

I wasn't sure if I would be interested in reading this book when the publisher contacted me to review it. I was skeptical, by solely looking at the cover! I know, it's horrible to read a book by it's cover alone, but I tend to do that more often than I should. Before I could tell myself no, I decided I needed to read a little about the book, and decide from it's description whether it would be something I would enjoy. The description alone caught my attention, and I decided I should give it a go.

I took this book with me to the bar to read it, yes, to the bar. I'm not a big drinker and so every Monday night I arrive at the bar with a book in hand just in case I go out in poker. Before I even sat down to play my Monday game, I started reading this book and had a hard time putting it down. I immedietly wanted to know what would happen to Ramona, and how her beloved Rita Hayworth would be portrayed in the book. That first night I read half of the book before poker even started, and was dissapointed when I had to put it down to even play the game in the first place.

I really enjoyed this book, and was surprised by the ending, although I'm not going to give anything away because I really believe that you should give this book a try. It's a story of a young girl running from her past, and trying to jump directly into adult life with no knowledge about it. Her past haunts her, and her future is what will suffer because of it. ( )
1 vote jenni7202 | Jul 2, 2009 |
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I met him in the park one week to the day after my father died. There he was, an average-looking fellow, nothing special, wearing a yellow sport shirt with one of those little alligators above the pocket, khaki pants, and dark horn-rimmed glasses -- completely average until you saw his fingers.
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The Lie
Coming of age in the 1950's America, Ramona Smollens takes her cues about female sexuality from Hollywood movie stars. None is more voluptuous than Rita Haywowrth, the redhead who knows how to please a man and becomes a volcano of passion at her lover's touch, whose image inspired American flyers on their missions in World War ll and even graced the first atomic bomb tested at the Bikini Atoll. Ramona marries young to escape her mother's house shortly after the death of her father. She takes with her a dark secret, the sort of secret one simply did not talk about and that would stalk her as she matured into her role as wife and mother, remained a devoted daughter to her own aging mother and secretly harbored an obsession with the iconic Hayworth.
The fictional story Wagman tells of one woman's struggle with the conventions of her day is a bold literary achievement. Underpinning it all is the sad, unspoken truth of the real-life, flesh-and-blood Hayworth, who was sexually abused by her father for most of her growing up. "Men go to bed with Gilda," she used to say, "but wake up with me." During Hayworth's lifetime, the public had no understanding of the depth of meaning and pain behind Hayworth's seemingly self-effacing words. To Ramona, and millions of women like her, Haywoth's on-screen persona seemed the ideal, but was in fact "the lie."
With this novel, Wagman realizes Kafka's famous dictum that "a book must be the axe to break the frozen sea within us."
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