Monday, 7 February 2011

Book Review: A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master


Everybody lies. We all do it. On 14th August 1947, I learnt that everybody lies but that not all lies are equal...
Many years ago I told one lie that has taken on a life of its own. The only time I was sure of anything was all those years ago, when I was a boy. When I was lying. But now the truth needs to be told...

My review and thoughts
A Beautiful Lie is set in India at the time of the partition in 1947 and centres around the life and problems of a young Bilal who is witnessing his Father's beloved India  and everything that it stands for fall apart before him. He is determined to protect his ill father from finding out the truth about what is happening in the outside world whatever the cost for he knows that it would break his heart. Helped by the best friends he has grown up with, it seems as though everything will go as planned but keeping up the pretence of the deception proves to be harder than Bilal anticipated and he must go to great lengths for it. But he begins to wonder if he is really doing the right thing even when the only thing he wants is for his father to die in peace. Can keeping the truth hidden really be right even if the lie is so beautiful?

I've never read a historical set novel in India before so I was very interested to find out about life there and I found learning more about India's past very fascinating. The setting really brings something new and fresh to the historical fiction genre. I learnt about the religious conflict that began to cause unrest and divide communities in riots. The little details that are hidden in Bilal's first person narrative make it clear that a lot of research was put into the novel.

Irfan Master's writing deals with a serious situation with sensitive, honest and beautiful writing and above all, Bilal's concern and love for his father can plainly be seen so that it is easier to understand why he spun the lie he did in order to protect him. This special relationship between Bilal and his father was lovely  and convincingly touching to read about yet so sad at the same time. It also turned out to be one of my favourite things about the book.

I also liked the relationship between Bilal and his group of friends because despite their religious differences, which elsewhere were tearing the country apart, stuck with each other and were willing to do anything to help Bilal.The focus on the young boys in the book helped me to see how the events that took place around the partition affected ordinary people and also gave the book a lighter touch as I loved reading about their life at school and the excitement of cricket matches.

The underlying messages of religious tolerance and intolerance are just as important as they were then, as are the themes of truth, friendship and love that are intertwined with the story.

Verdict: A Beautiful Lie is a very emotional and engaging debut novel but also a delightful one that is full of moments of smiles and tears. The vivid setting and characters made me really enjoy it and I think Irfan Master's next books will be ones to look out for!

It has just been shortlisted for the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize.

Thank you to Bloomsbury UK for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Oh wow...I love the sound of this. It seems so powerful and obviously different from what I normally read. I should add this to my list because I need some more serious in my life! :)

    Great review!

  2. This book sounds amazing. I think the Indian partition is very interesting so I'll be looking out for this one.

  3. This seems like a really worth while read. Sometimes I need a break from all the high school drama of YA fiction. I'm glad you posted about it this book, I'm going to have to check it out. Great review!!

  4. I love books set in India. This one sounds great. Thanks for the thought provoking review.


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