Fake by Stephanie Wood

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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Stephanie Wood

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