The story follows the growth of an unnamed protagonist, who, through his best friend, Kevin, discovers that he is gay. The two characters are brought together by their families knowing each other, a bit like in E.M. Fortster's Maurice. During a holiday, the two boys, sharing a room, have their first sexual experience. The story then progresses along the path of the unnamed protagonist's following years, ending with a shocking scene.
The context is that of the 1960s, in a rather well-off social environment, and, of course, the point this novel wants to make is that in all paths of life there are gay people who will find each other and have relationships. What I feel is missing from the context is the social perception of homosexuality, still very much taboo at the time, even in well-educated middle class circles. Even more, there seems to be little interaction between the protagonist and the social milieu, even with his own immediate family.
I feel the biggest problem with this novel is, in fact, the style, or total lack of it. It is narrated as a matter-of-fact story, been the romantic scenes are clinical. I do not recall any interesting imagery, any symbolism, metaphors, similes that make the style personal. I could not distinguish the style of this novel from any totally anonymous and impersonal writing. I feel the author has no style.
The coming of age aspect of the novel is weak; the protagonist simply happens to grow up and discover he is gay, yet, there is no emotional response to this. The character is, in a way, soulless, dull, anonymous, and clinical. That defeats the object of the story: even discovering that you are slightly different from others, for an adolescent, is a source of pain and turmoil, let alone discovering that you have been sentenced to a life of bullying and social prejudice. For me, this novel became famous just because it was one of the first gay novels, but has no place in literature or on my shelf of good books-memorable for its shortcomings and my disappointment rather than its achievements.
Book Reviewed by Billy Best
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