Many readers of gay books grow weary of the same old formula - two people fall in love, they are "outed", the world is against them, but finally they win through. It is time for gay novels to move on and Jay Mandal's "The Dandelion Clock" does just that. There is nothing formulaic about it. There is no violence and no bigotry but the slow unfolding of the story of a love forged in a different kind of adversity.
David and Rob meet by chance on a railway station in London. Rob, a boy of 17, has run away from home. David, who works in the City, is house-sitting for his parents and offers him a bed for the night. Rob is wary but desperate and accepts. The following day he panics and runs off, only to return after another lonely night on the railway station. David, despite his misgivings, takes him in again and eventually falls in love with him but, being a man of integrity and assuming he is straight, does not tell him. After twelve months David's parents return from the U.S. and Rob moves out. David is heart-broken but determines not to see Rob again: better a clean break than prolonging the agony of unrequited love.
This, however, is not the end of the story. David's parents go abroad again and Rob asks if he can move back in. Thereafter the plot thickens. A very shaky relationship ensues. Rob is not all he seemed and is haunted by demons from his past. These cast a shadow over the relationship and only slowly are they revealed and exorcised. Jay Mandal excels in depicting the emotional roller-coaster his characters are on. His dialogue is totally believable yet very often we read between the lines. The subtext is as important as the text and the subtleties of the relationship are skilfully drawn. For anyone who wants to read a novel about a gay relationship that concentrates less on bedroom athletics than psychological realities, is leavened with great good humour and is thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying, then this book cannot be recommended too highly.