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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 9 April 2014
Having just finished reading this rather strange book – indeed persevering with it until the end – I felt quite disturbed. I also found the writer’s style quite difficult to follow and also the sense of the dialogue which was often disjointed and did not flow. At times I had to read a passage twice and was left feeling….uh??? I could relate to the story’s background having been a chorister and organist myself with a deep interest in church and classical music and could see how the mutual attraction between Tony and David sprang into being. However when David moved into the choir school as a teacher, then the story lost me. For instance the incident with the pocket knife with which Tony injured David was left hanging in the air….was there no retribution? The boy seemed to run the place - to come and go as he pleased, the staff appeared ineffectual and blinkered. And the ending was weird.

I tried to like this book I really did, but I think I must have missed something somewhere judging by the glowing comments from other reviewers. The product description tells us…. “On both sides of the Atlantic, 'Sandel' became formative reading for a generation of boys growing up in the 1970s who knew their feelings fell outside the heterosexual male stereotype, and it remains a gay cult novel today, with prices on Amazon reaching thousands of dollars a copy.” Goodness knows then what teenagers made of it.
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on 30 December 2013
I am not going to try to compete with the existing reviews it would be a waste of time. I simply wanted to say that the aunts attitude is wise. She realized that what was happening was essentially harmless and that the protagonists would grow up, tire of one another and move on with their lives. Moreover, that would happen sooner rather than later if she simply let them work through it in their own way. In our time we have become obsessed with such relationships, involving people of different ages, which in times passed were if not condoned, were at least tactfully ignored. I can't help but think much of this is simply down to sexual jealousy dressed in the clothing of morality and happily endorsed by the religious where in fact these relationships are as often found as elsewhere.
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on 4 May 2017
Excellent story sad at points but brings out the true story of age difference in gay love
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on 17 March 2017
delighted to find this again having acquired a copy when it was first released but lost it
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on 2 March 2017
An interesting look at life in the 1950's, and the challenging relationship between a pupil and teacher, and stay within bounds they can not cross.
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on 4 June 2009
Of the comparitively few novels based in an English choir school, this is certainly one of the best. Head choirboy Antony Sandel's voice is at its peak; a possessive and highly emotional friendship develops between him and David Rogers, a university undergraduate. Their relationship flourishes as the voice develops; Rogers takes on work as a master in the school - which bears certain characteristics reminiscent of that in Evelyn Waugh's "Decline and Fall".
The book is a period piece with much authentic detail from the sixties in Oxford University, the College Chapel (called "The Temple" - a sort of amalgam of the cathedral and the other choral foundations in Oxford), and the Cotswolds. It's delightfully evocative of time and place, and of prep-school life - short trousers, boats on the river, afternoon tea and cricket before Evensong. With the book's Forster-like ambience, understated passion and Morse/Harry Potter-like setting, this book is more than ripe for being made into a film. I hope somebody will do so in due course.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 October 2007
David Rogers is a nineteen year old undergraduate at Oxford reading English; he is also an accomplished musician. From an obviously moneyed family, as a seventeen year old public school boy he fell in love from afar with the much younger Peter, but never acted on his feelings. One day at Oxford he encounters a couple of young choirboys from St Cecilia's choir school returning from a service. One of the boys is thirteen year old Tony Sandel, and by chance they soon meet again, they have a lot in common and so begins a remarkable love affair.

Tony, orphaned and cared for by his no-nonsense aunt, is no ordinary boy; he is intelligent, mature for his years and an extraordinary singer with an outstanding musical mind, and he is slender and beautiful. But more than that the young character that Angus Stewart creates is all boy, he is so well observed that we have a vivid picture of a lively, occasionally mischievous, sometimes overwhelmed by his own feelings, but always endearing youngster, his boyish mannerisms perfectly captured. He knows what he wants, be it the clothes he wears, or concerning his relationship with David.

Of course the immediate question that comes to mind is the propriety of the relationship between the two boys, and Stewart address this mainly through David's conversations with Bruce Lang, a fellow Oxford student and childhood friend since the age of nine and who was with David at Public school. The rather cynical Bruce is taking instruction from the Jesuits and so conveniently provides a sounding board and counter argument concerning David's friendship with Tony.

Tony too is at first confused about his relationship with David, especially in view of some of the sermons he has heard. He discusses these with David, so we feel he is under no illusion as to what their relationship involves. However at one point Tony asks David what loves is, and David is unable to provide a convincing answer. This seemed rather odd for someone with David's education particularly with his knowledge Latin and particularly Greek. Surely David would know that in Greek there are several words which translated as love, but each of which has a very specific meaning. But that is a minor point overall. What does come over very convincingly is that the two love each other dearly, but it is Tony who is in the driving seat, and the more so as the relationship develops.

The realities of a relationship involving an adolescent boy and a near adult are not ignored. Tony does irritate David at times, even angering him; but such is David's love for Tony that he makes every effort to control these feelings, fully aware of the potential problem.

Stewart writes intelligently, and gives his reader no quarter; he expects his reader to be able to grasp what is happening without unnecessary explanation. But that is not to say that the narrative is scant, far from it, his descriptions are full, well observed and unambiguous, and his characters are well defined and often eccentric individuals.

Whatever one might feel about the relationship of the two boys, there is no doubting that Sandel is a truly beautiful, tender love story. It is very well written, at times very funny, never sentimental, and with a very satisfying conclusion which avoids any clichés. Now difficult to obtain it is well worth seeking out.
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on 13 October 2013
Frequent attempts are made to depict Sandel as a classic gay love story, rather than the classic pederastic one it is. I'm relieved the new publishers have not succumbed to this nonsense, as they might have for marketing purposes, for it must have Angus Stewart, a lifelong lover of boys, turning in his grave. However many like the reviewer Matteo B. truly think of a 19-year-old like David as a "boy", there is no excuse for others who have called him one in order to brush aside the critical difference in age between him and 13-year-old Tony. After asking David "Am I [a homosexual] because I'm attracted to you?" and establishing that a pederast means "someone who loves boys", Tony asks him "What's the specific term for a boy who loves a man?" to which David replies "I don't know that there is one. Perhaps people don't take you seriously enough to invent a special word." How much less ambiguous can one get?

Other reviewers have said enough about the literary merits of this deeply moving and loosely autobiographical love story whose emotional authenticity shines through every page. I shall instead confine myself to some observations on how tragically the climate for its reception has changed since 1968 when it received such critical acclaim from national newspapers. I may be in a peculiar position to do so due to having myself just published a boarding-school love story between a boy and young master for which Sandel is by far the closest precedent. The main differences are that my boy protagonist was a year older in physical development, which inevitably affected the tone of his affair, and more crucially that it is set in 1984 rather than the mid-fifties, so reactions to its discovery were devastating.

Incredibly, one recent reviewer has implied a republished Sandel could expect a much more favourable reception "now that we live in more tolerant times." What faith in the inevitability of progress it must take to be so blind to the vicious intolerance on this subject that has exploded over the last generation! My feelings rereading Sandel for the first time since I was myself David's age have been overwhelmingly sad for this very reason. Writing in the increasingly liberal sixties, it must have seemed to Stewart that The Sunday Telegraph's acknowledgement of "a love which truly exists and is not despicable" might be the foundation stone of a golden age of toleration and understanding. How bitterly disillusioned he must later have become!

It is merely difficult to imagine today an aunt who would think or dare to rescue from their outraged school her 13-year-old nephew caught in his master's bed, and dispatch the lovers on a ten-week honeymoon in Italy. It is impossible though to imagine anything but imminent catastrophe if today a choirboy being interviewed by newsmen were to tell them about his love for his teacher and the latter punched one of them to the floor for making snide remarks about it. The threat "You shouldn't have done that," couldn't possibly sound "unconvincing." The newsmen would know only too well that a visit to the police would ensure an investigation almost bound to wreck the lives of both man and boy.

A difference in the reception of his and my novels is also I believe a sad reflection of our relatively closed-minded era. Stewart painstakingly addressed the moral complications involved in a love affair between a choirboy and a young man through ironic exchanges between David and his old school friend Bruce Lang. Not only were newspaper reviews as positive as quoted on Amazon towards the love depicted, but the original Times review of May 1968 had no patience with this drag on the story, concluding in an otherwise entirely favourable review that "the middle of the book indulges too many of these debates. Lang is a bore." Though my protagonists in a more hostile age had no confidants with whom to discuss their affair, I still made them puzzle over society's objections themselves. Yet in contrast to Stewart, I've been lambasted for glossing over "child abuse", as if it has anything whatsoever to do with love stories that are self-evidently nothing of the sort and which an open-minded reader would judge on their own terms.

One wonders how long it will be before the child abuse lobby succeeds in imposing on productions of Romeo and Juliet the interruption of the most romantic scenes with sour warnings that despite the strongest contrary indications love involving a pubescent is always really no more than false cover for a satanic plot to satisfy selfish lust.

Edmund Marlowe, author of Alexander's Choice, an Eton boy's love story, www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1481222112
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on 9 October 2013
This novel has almost cult status in certain quarters despite the book being out of print since the early 70s (and second hand copies going for hundreds if not thousands of pounds). I am so glad that someone has had the guts to republish this book as there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of in it at all. The topic of an older boy (for at 19 I think one is still a boy despite having one's majority) and a younger one has been done to death in countless books and is something that is natural given that many boys in their teens are still coming to terms or experimenting with their sexuality.

This book shows this and does it in a touching, unpatronising and amusing way. While the text does not leave one in any doubt as to the state of the boys' relationship there is nothing graphically sexual here at all. It merely portrays two very close friends who are frank with each other and obviously love each other very much. It is this friendship and intimacy that shines through rather than any sexual exploits designed to shock, although the author does use the device of an old schoolfriend of the protagonist who is receiving instruction from the Jesuits (rather ironic I think) to shine some doubt on his motives. Anyway I will not go on as I do not want to spoil the enjoyment of this wonderful book for the potential reader.If nothing else it paints a beautifully evocative picture of Oxford and Christchurch. I went up there this summer was surprised at how accurate the book was in its description.

In fact I think this book has the power to change minds and make a good case for the subject in minds liberal and balanced to give it a read. It certainly goes a long way towards answering some of the current hysteria. However I am surprised the mainstream media did not latch on to the production of the play on the Edinburgh Fringe (that inspired this re-print) and cause a fuss in the way they did when Stephen Fry's short play LATIN! was performed there some years ago. Anyway thanks to the publisher for re-issuing this. I am sure a lot of people will be very happy once the word gets out and many more people, who have heard about this book but could not afford it until now, will hopefully get a chance to read it.
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on 19 April 2013
This is simply the best novel about love that I have read. Granted, it is a homosexual novel, but it is as true about heterosexual love as it is about love between two males. Then of course it introduces readers to a way of enjoying love that has nothing to do with sex. David and Tony do have sex eventually but the beauty they derive from it they have long enjoyed without physical orgasm through music. It is an extraordinary novel. You have to go bak to Goethe's purblind scholar - Faust - to find anything like it. Buy it. Give it. To one you love!
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