Page Turner: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

This takes ghostwriting to a whole new level.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel is a confessional novel about her crimes. After her writing career deteriorates along with her finances Israel has to start selling off her prized possessions to keep herself and her cat alive. When she sold her letters written by literary giants, she saw how much they are worth, which gave her an idea. So she got to work, forging letters. Over 400 letters of dead authors and actors, to be precise.

I do like how sarcastic she is throughout the novel. Even the title is, in some part, sarcastic. It comes from a line she used in one of her faked letters where she meant it as “apologizing with no intention whatsoever of mending her wayward ways”. She doesn’t excuse her crime but tries to get the reader to understand why she felt so desperate that this was her one way out. If anything, she hints that if possible she would give it another go, but she passed away back in 2014 before she got the chance.

Yes, I know she is a criminal, but I ended up liking her by the end. Her crime wasn’t a violent one, plus no one got hurt (other than potentially financially) so I don’t feel bad for somewhat rooting for her. From what I could find out, all of the stolen letters were returned to their rightful homes, although some of her forgeries might still be out there. Also, maybe this is just me, but forgery is kind of a cool skill. 

Full disclosure, there is a bit of casual racism and some questionable elements. I thought I should mention that. 

Also, this novel was adapted into a film with the same name starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. I haven’t seen it yet, but it does sound promising. 

Overall, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a fun and fast read written by the perpetrator of the crime.

The question is, do you forgive her? 

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