Based on a True Story
by Delphine De Vigan
When Delphine meets L. at a party, she seems like the perfect friend- beautiful, confident and unusually intuitive. The two women quickly develop a close bond, sharing stories about their past, their favourite books and their personal lives. But when L. starts wearing the same clothes as Delphine, and even starts to answer her emails, it becomes clear that there is more to her than meets the eye. What would you do if your best friend started to steal your life?
The french novel (D’Après une Histoire Vraie) ‘Based on a True Story’ translated by is a psychological thriller between a successful writer Delphine and a mysterious stranger L. who slowly but surely takes over her life.
At a recent book signing Delphine has a small breakdown, overwhelmed by her novels success and worried she will never be able to write another book as popular, she begins to crumble and anxiety starts to take over, she speaks to one of her fans rudely and refuses to sign her book which is unlike her. At a party feeling down, upset and fragile she meets L. A fashionable sophisticated strong in control woman who is everything Delphine currently is not. Delphine is instantly drawn to L. and their friendship becomes close very quickly.
As the story unravels you notice L. becoming more odd. She begins wearing the same clothes as Delphine, takes over all of her correspondence; writing emails to her fans, editors and friends, has unreasonable anger outbursts, never meets any of her friends, family or partner and then at one point she tells Delphine that they went to school together which Delphine has no recollection of at all. I think at this point Delphine begins to realise there is something not quite right with L. but it takes her such a long time to raise suspicion of L’s oddities and weirdness. De Vigan’s thriller creeps up on you slowly, I think that what I loved about it so much, it was very intriguing I wanted to know all the answers to so many questions running through my mind whilst reading it; why L. had chosen Delphine, what was her end game? why was she helping her so much yet also being spiteful? I think for a thriller it’s quite slow paced but the characterisation of L. and how De Vigan always gives you just enough to keep you wanting to read more.
At one point Delphine says “I’m well aware that the reader will develop a certain mistrust towards L. A mistrust that I didn’t feel. Surprise, amusement, perplexity, yes. But not mistrust. Mistrust came much later”. I totally understand that, whilst reading you think wow L. is so weird I totally would of freaked out if my friend did this this and this, however I think in person you wouldn’t realise it. Why would you mistrust one of your friends if they are always there for you even in bad times and especially when others aren’t. For myself this was quite eye opening, the relationship between L. and Delphine kind of reminded me of a friend I used to have, I think all of us in our lives at some point have what I call a “poisonous” friend. They can be lovely, thoughtful and kind most of the time, but can also be spiteful, put you down and upset you. We stick with these friends because like L. she has a lot of positive qualities about her and like Delphine it does take a long time to realise how this type of friend can be negative and not good for us. So I wasn’t surprised whilst reading that Delphine wasn’t suspicious of L. until the bitter end.
An interesting theme throughout the novel was the idea of how audiences prefer reading or watching things “based on a true story” rather than “pure fiction”. Delphine gets an idea to write a new novel which is a purely fictional book, but L. shoots this idea down saying that her readers want “reality” “Fiction is over for you novelists… Why do you think readers and critics wonder about the autobiographical element in literary works? Because today that’s its sole raison d’etre: to give an account of reality, to tell the truth… That’s what readers expect of novelists: that they’ll lay their guts out on the table.” In my opinion I love “pure fiction” and novels based on true stories/memoirs autobiographies etc. I’m not quite sure why L. tries to force Delphine to write a story which contains a reality, but this forcefulness pushes Delphine to the limit and she is so overcome she gets writers block for a really long time not even being able to pick up a pen or open a word document. I did wonder whilst reading if this novel was based on a true story of De Vigan’s life. I looked up articles but didn’t really find anything conclusive. I think this is another reason why I loved the book so much as there are still so many unanswered questions about it regarding the characters and the author.
I really enjoyed Based on a True Story, it was a creepy, eerie book which ended on a superb finale, for a thriller I must say was a bit of a slow burner but the fantastic characterisation and build up just kept me gripped the whole time. I won’t say anymore as I don’t want to spoil it but if you enjoy psychological thrillers I highly recommend this novel.
Have you read Based on a True Story or anything else written by Delphine De Vigan? Let me know your thoughts about the book & author. I would love to know, thanks for reading. Katie x
Just a quick side note….
I was sent this book with my subscription of Reading In Heels. I have only recently subscribed but if you enjoy reading, cosmetics and treats this is a fantastic subscription. This month I received Based on a True Story, a small bar of chocolate, herbal teas, scented love balm and argentum apothecary cream all gift wrapped beautifully and delivered to my door. Subscription is only £12.50 per month which includes PP.