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Stephanie Wood

Women the world over are brought up to hope, even expect, to find the man of their dreams and live happily ever after. When Stephanie Wood meets a former architect turned farmer she embarks on an exhilarating romance with him. He seems compassionate, loving, truthful. They talk about the future. She falls in love. She also becomes increasingly beset by anxiety at his frequent cancellations, no-shows and bizarre excuses. She starts to wonder, who is this man?

When she ends the relationship Stephanie reboots her journalism skills and embarks on a romantic investigation. She discovers a story of mind-boggling duplicity and manipulation. She learns that the man she thought she was in love with doesn’t exist. She also finds she is not alone; that the world is full of smart people who have suffered at the hands of liars, cheats, narcissists, fantasists and phonies, people enormously skilled in the art of deception.

In this brilliantly acute and broad-ranging book, Wood, an award-winning writer and journalist, has written a riveting, important account of contemporary love, and the resilience of those who have witnessed its darkest sides.

Review

Boy meets girl. Boy kisses girl. Boy lies to girl, manipulates her emotionally, and comes up with countless outlandish excuses for cancelled dates (all while having at least one other woman on the side for the duration of their relationship). Welcome to the world of modern dating, where Tinder is the place you meet, and even a top-grade journalist has trouble sifting the truth from the lies.

Stephanie Wood was a features journalist for the Good Weekend magazine and in this, her first foray into book writing, she uses her journalistic chops to dig deep into the character and stories of the man she fell in love with. The extent of his lying was impressive – on at least one occasion Wayne Swan the former Treasurer of Australia was used as an excuse, at other times the President of China was his fallback guy. And while the object of her affection concealed himself behind an enormous construct of lies, Stephanie Wood lays herself bare with personal truths that can at times be painful to read. She knows her audience though, and she never bores us by simply recounting her relationship with this guy. She speaks to psychiatrists and relationship counsellors; researches personality disorders; lists the traps, clues, and signs that someone isn’t to be trusted; and interviews other women (and men) who have been broken emotionally by the manipulations of these people.

While reading this story, I was tempted to feel that I knew better, that I wouldn’t be caught out by someone like this, but who hasn’t wanted to believe the best of the person they’ve fallen in love with? And it wasn’t just her: it was businessmen, real estate agents, any number of people who trusted this guy. This is a cautionary tale, but it’s also the story of a woman who came out stronger – and wiser – in the end. If you’re single, read it. And if you’re in a relationship, you’d better read it too (because as Stephanie Wood found out, being coupled up is not necessarily insurance against lying cheats).


Gabrielle Williams works as a bookseller at Readings Malvern and is the Grants Officer for the Readings Foundation. She is also the author of books for young adults.

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