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on 1 April 2017
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I borrowed this extraordinary novel from a friend's sister in 1967, the year after its publication. Set in the north of England, where I then lived, it recounts the dignified early stages of male-to-female transition of Roy, who at the age of 21 decides to live as Wendy. I have just re-read it fifty years on. Some details I had remembered but much of it I had forgotten, particularly the humour with which the author enlivens a sometimes harrowing narrative, including the opening scenes in the mental hospital where Roy has been sent for stealing women's clothes. What I had misremembered was that Roy chose not to dress as a Dutch girl at the fancy dress ball. That was the nurse's suggestion. Here and later in the novel he entirely resists the notion that those who transition should join the cabaret, though that is what I took away, perhaps because it would become embedded in the culture as a well-worn path trod by the likes of April Ashley and Amanda Lear. So authentic is Brown's account that some have speculated that he himself was trans, though it seems more likely that the book was inspired by newspaper articles about April Ashley and other trans people in the early 1960s. It is just a shame about the book's ending: the film of the same name, in which Anne Heywood played the title role, 'corrected' that.