Marina Mander - The First True Lie (4 stars)

British debut is heartbreaking story leavened with humour and a quirky worldview

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Marina Mander - The First True Lie

(Canongate)

The First True Lie is Marina Mander’s British debut, translated from the Italian by Stephen Twilley, and we’re fortunate that such a stunning gem of a novel has reached our shores. Imagine you’re ‘half-orphan’, then your mother died: what would you do? Fearing life in an orphanage, Luca keeps it secret, pretending everything is normal as his mother’s body decomposes in the bedroom.

Potential grimness is arrested by the brilliantly-realised Luca, his heartbreaking story leavened with humour and a quirky worldview. Luca is intelligent and insular, with friends at school but no confidant other than his cat, Blue. ‘Anyway, friends are crawling with parents,’ he points out, knowing this endangers his secret. Fascinated with words, he believes in their power to alter his reality: ‘I am no longer an orphan. I am a single human being. It's a matter of words.’ Mander’s debut is as close as you can get to perfect with style and substance meeting to create a poignant and beautiful story.

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