Set in the socially tempestuous aftermath of World War I, and full of early twentieth-century taboos, love and betrayal, Marion Husband's award-winning debut novel is a passionately written and thought-provoking affair. Protagonist Paul Harris, a homosexual soldier fated to marry the fiancée of his dead brother through loyalty, is a deeply tender character drifting into a world he cannot love.
Forced to hide his true desires for his sometime lover and former sergeant, Adam, now a butcher, the difficulties that one can only imagine were faced in the post war period by ex-soldiers are laid out sensitively. By no means a 'fully wronged' man, Paul, like the other characters, has his emotional and physical frailties, and rather than force any one point of view on her reader, Marion Husband calmly portrays a balanced narrative allowing the readers to make up their own minds.
Through the vivid flashbacks the author highlights the contrasts between events lived and living, and in the sweat, tears and anger of war the same passions rumble with a whole different form of expression. Allowing the characters to develop in effortless prose with a series of graphic sex scenes and realistic dialect, 'the love that dare not speak its name' is explored with true feeling and passionate lust.
What really struck me about this novel was the difficulty I found in putting it down, as I was gripped by its intricate romantic plotline and compact cast of memorable and contrasting characters. Complicated issues are tackled with great sensitivity while the storyline bounds along at a pace, and whether it is reflecting on the moral quandary of society's prejudice only a few generations ago, or indulging in classic romance, there is something here for everyone.