A superb second novel looking at the nature of deceit and desire.
Part political thriller, part meditation on the nature of desire and betrayal, Seven Lies tells the story of Stefan Vogel, a young man growing up in the former East Germany, whose yearnings for love, glory and freedom express themselves in a lifelong fantasy of going to America. The hopeless son of an ambitious mother and a kind but unlucky diplomat, Stefan lurches between his budding, covert interests - girls and Romantic poetry - to find himself embroiled in dissident politics, which oddly seems to offer both. In time, by a series of blackly comic and increasingly dangerous manoeuvres, he contrives to make his fantasy come true, finding himself not only in the country of his dreams, but also married to the woman he idolises. America seems everything he expected, and meanwhile his secrets are safely locked away behind the Berlin Wall. A new life of unbounded bliss seems to have been granted to him. And then that life begins to fall apart...
Exquisitely written and brilliantly imagined, James Lasdun's second novel is a terrifying plummet into anxiety, as complacency yields to an edgy paranoia. Pitching the furtive, shabby world of Communist Berlin against the glassy superficiality of contemporary New York, Seven Lies is an examination of the architecture of deceit - how deceit builds on itself until life is little more than an accretion of falsehood; how hope turns to fear, and dreams to nightmares.
“the imaginativeness with which he explores the politics of expectation and failure runs deep...Seven Lies combines the knuckle-whitening tension of a thriller with literary wit and the precision of a surgeon seeking to tease out rotten flesh. Definitely a novel to be admired”
“A brilliant and darkly funny tale of politics and paranoia”
Christina Patterson, Independent
“Lasdun's second novel has much of the thriller about it. But its more sinuous power comes from other duplicities in Stefan's previous life: a glorious section of the book involves his teenage self plagiarising Walt Whitman to impress his mother's salon, all the while bribing a pederast janitor with aquavit to gain access to the source material”
Alex Clark, Observer
“Seven Lies...has a way of enlarging the spirit and refreshing the mind far more comprehensively than many books with twice its 200 pages”
James Buchan, Guardian
“[T]his seems to be an artful evocation of the effect of totalitarianism on the individual. But if this sounds drably psychological, I am doing the novel a disservice: it is short, intense, powerful and superbly crafted”
Chris Power, The Times
“Intricately plotted and structured, its prose both elegant and poised, Seven Lies could be read as a fable about the political and spiritual corruption endemic in a totalitarian state. It is, however, very much concerned with the human cost of deception and betrayal”
Tim Parks, Sunday Times
“The pages that Lasdun devotes to the couple's early days in New York are among the most beautiful in the book. They are a reminder that the author is a poet as well as a novelist - a passage in which Stefan describes his wonder at "illuminated tiers of fruit and vegetables (and) forests of flowers spilling out their scent and colour" could be from Bellow, so expressive is it of sublime superabundance. And it is this descriptive brilliance, rather than the easy ingenuity of the novel's closing plot twists, that leaves a lasting impression”
Jonathan Derbyshire, Financial Times
“James Lasdun is a tremendous writer and Seven Lies is that rare thing, a novel that delivers on every level. It is so gripping that you want to gobble it down at a single sitting, and yet the prose is so exacting that you want to linger over every sentence”