Title: Love Secrets Lies
Author: Teresa Vale
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre: Literary Fiction, Young-Adult
First Publication: 2021
Setting place(s) of the story: Mozambique, Portugal, South Africa, Morocco
Protagonist: Teresa Fidalgo
Narration type: First person
Theme: The search for autonomy and self determination in a country that has been through regime change and political turmoil and now clings to the past, unsure of where to go next. This pursuit of autonomy is told through the evolving perspective of a teenage girl looking for love and her own identity.
Book Summary: Love Secrets Lies by Teresa Vale
Paradise is no more. She’s a stranger in her new home as she sails the choppy waters of teen life. Teresa longs for picture-perfect love, but in the real world you often have to say “No”, even if it breaks your heart.
From tropical Mozambique to drab, 1970s Lisbon, from the golden beaches of Durban to five-star holidays in verdant, mountainous Madeira, and even the Moroccan kasbah, follow Teresa as she stumbles and falls and picks herself up again.
Will Teresa’s grandparents let her out of their sight for a minute? Can she forge her own path in a country that struggles to emerge from fear and taboo? Will she find true love, or is she forever fated to navigate an ocean of boys who demand more than she is willing to give?
Loosely based on the Author’s experience, the book blends serious topics and lighthearted fare, tackling subject matter like divorce, violence in dating, economic opportunities and gender equality through the evolving perspective of a 1970s teenager.
Book Review: Love Secrets Lies by Teresa Vale
Love Secrets Lies is fascinating, heart-breaking, searingly honest narration told in the face of extremes of life. It’s a story of an African girl who comes of age during the revolutionary years in a country gripped in the stranglehold of dictatorship, tradition, rampant poverty and unemployment, and the seemingly ubiquitous curse of being a girl in paternalistic society.
This absolutely entrancing story began approximately 40 years ago, in 1975. A revolution had just ended 48 years of corporatist dictatorship only the previous year. With the revolution, the country and the African territories that were under colonial rule were fundamentally transformed, becoming independent countries. This was the case in Mozambique, where the protagonist of our story, Teresa Fidalgo, lived.
Born in Mozambique, Teresa and her younger brother Brownie were taken to live with their grandparents, Afonso and Paulina, at young ages following their parents’ divorce. Raised by strict grandparents Teresa and Brownie turned to each other for comfort. They both have insight and compassion and both have shown enormous courage in almost intolerable situations. She and her family had to flee their home with civil war and political unrest creating turmoil in their quiet life, so they were forced to leave behind their life and seek refuge in Portugal, along with a million other “the returned,” as they were referred to by their European-born countrymen. It is galling to think that this description of unreasoning prejudice is in a so-called “free” country.
As Teresa and her family arrived in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, they discovered a nation undergoing great turmoil. In the early days of democracy, freedom was on everyone’s lips, but the rigid, hypocritical morals of the dictatorship still influenced people’s hearts and minds. As a result, the young experienced sexual repression from both their parents and elders, becoming entangled in taboos all the times.
In this world, neither parents nor children trusted each other, so lying was the only way to survive. In the case of teenagers, the concept of “survival” meant experiencing perfectly normal teenage things: attending parties, slow dancing with a crush, and having your first relationship or experiencing love. It’s difficult to imagine anything worse than a childhood crushed under the oppressive conditions social norms.
Being a girl in an authoritarian and paternalistic society meant experiencing a normal teenage life is a great deal of thought. Teresa must keep secrets and challenge the rules of her elders with lies and tricks to find love and a path of her own in this world. There is so much to unpack here as Teresa deals holistically with the fate of being an African in Europe, being a girl in the society that has biased opinion towards women, and female sexuality. There is an infinite depth in this book that can reveal itself more and more with each successive read.
The book focuses on Teresa’s journey from Mozambique Lisbon, from to Madeira. The story, in a nutshell is about Teresa, an African girl, now living in Portugal, overcomes sexual oppression, racial oppression, and the separation of herself and her parents. She goes through several lifetimes of pain and hurt, but ends up a strong woman in the end. There is a lot here about identity, defining oneself in one’s own terms and not the owner’s for example. Also, there is commentary on the need for and value of community.
The book has many characters that transform completely during the book. Each character has their own voice and the characters are very deep. The writing is wonderful. It changes as the characters grow and age. There are many memorable characters, good and bad, in this book. The characters are not caricatures as they are well-developed and multi-dimensional, author has not only revealed both their good and bad sides to the readers but also the reasons why they behave or think that way. Even the secondary characters like Afonso, Paulina or Brownie contributes in bringing out the nature of the main character.
Love Secrets Lies holds so much wisdom and experience. It is a work of love, loss, and misery, tempered only by hope. It’s a story about the layers of discrimination and prejudice that surround women against society. Ultimately this is a triumphant work of self-realization and independence of a woman who learns she can speak out in the world and can find love and her identity. Needless to say there is not a lot of joy within, but there are occasional glimpses. The novel does end on a surge of hope and another fantastic visual.
It’s hard to believe that this is Teresa Vale’s debut novel, she writes with such clarity, bringing the many characters to life, both in terms of their feelings, and the situations that they had to face, and it’s such a powerful piece of social history, that I would recommend it without reservation. I cannot wait to see what this already accomplished author will tackle next.