Paperback review: Beautiful Lies, By Clare Clark

Queen Victoria, Buffalo Bill, and a mysterious Chilean heiress

There's a great deal going on in Clare Clark's vast and detailed Victorian novel, which centres on Maribel Campbell Lowe – an apparent Chilean heiress who has another, much darker identity altogether – at the time of the Queen's Golden Jubilee and Buffalo Bill Cody's sell-out Wild West Show in London.

Maribel is trying to find her way in the world, to carve an identity for herself possibly as a photographer, possibly as a poet, and identity is the key to her story, as Clare also takes in the rapaciousness of a press which could expose her heroine. At the heart of all this, though, is a touching portrayal of a highly unusual marriage (based on real-life individuals) which perhaps deserves more of the floor for itself.