- Also check our best rated Romance Book reviews
While England Sleeps Paperback – 2 Dec 1999
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"A haunting, evocative novel of England in the 1930s, when the word was poised on the edge of chaos." --"San Francisco Chronicle"
"Extraordinary . . . This deeply moving novel shows the dangers of betrayal in youth--its repercussions not only for the betrayed but for the betrayer himself." --"People"
A haunting, evocative novel of England in the 1930s, when the word was poised on the edge of chaos. "San Francisco Chronicle"
Extraordinary . . . This deeply moving novel shows the dangers of betrayal in youth--its repercussions not only for the betrayed but for the betrayer himself. "People""
"A haunting, evocative novel of England in the 1930s, when the word was poised on the edge of chaos." --San Francisco Chronicle
"Extraordinary . . . This deeply moving novel shows the dangers of betrayal in youth--its repercussions not only for the betrayed but for the betrayer himself." --People--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Long-awaited first UK publication of David Leavitt's novel of love and war set during the Spanish Civil War. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
It has a readability that draws the eye, and the narrator's voice is completely convincing. It's written in first person, there is a faux prologue "written" in 1978 where Brian explains that he's now living in America and considers himself to be an American and an epilogue which looks back at 1938 from that fifty year gap. Both of these devices go far to convince that the book was written by Brian and not by David Leavitt.
Like "As Meat Loves Salt" (although not to the same extent) Brian is not a likeable or attractive character. A product of his class, he coasts through life, unlike Edward who takes what he wants with more enthusiasm, facing what he is face on. Brian still thinks that being homosexual is just something one did at school and that he would get over it, although it's obvious he's deluding himself. He's a playwright, and he plays at it, having no drive to support himself; he sponges off his Aunt Constance (or "Inconstance" as he cruelly calls her, as she doesn't pay him regularly enough for him to depend on her support. He mumps off his friends and generally won't commit to one thing or another, which leads to the crisis event in the book - one which he will regret, and will haunt him for the rest of his life.
I found it to be tremendously absorbing, like the best of historicals, it immersed me in the era without info dumping. As I've said before, if a book reads like it was written in the time, rather than about the time, it earns big kudos from me. The class divide might be hard for non-Brits to grasp - but pre-war it was still more relevant than people would suppose. I felt ashamed of Brian's inability to admit his affair to his own friends, but then found it perfectly acceptable to talk to Edward's sister about it. I wanted to smack him with the clue-by-four several times in the book - but that's ok - that meant that the author was doing his job.
It also brings the situation in Europe at that time into sharp relief, there's a lovely sub-plot with a friend of Brian's who is attempting to get a friend out of Europe which breaks your heart, and you, as the reader, knowing what is going to happen in a few short years, hold your breath and weep at the hopeless cause and loss of life that is the Spanish Civil War.
If you prefer to like your protagonists, then this book might not be for you, but if you want a meaty and rich story that takes you so viscerally into the period that you can smell the steam engines and feel the bubble of the champagne of the Fast Set, then you'll enjoy this as much as I did. A definite keeper.
I know that it's possible to have a hateful protagonist, and for that to add to a book; but even horrible people need to grow, or at least go on some journey and be different at the end (even if they are still horrible). Brian Botsford does go on a journey, a literal one, and comes back the same. I was disappointed by the story. Upper-middle class writer briefly lives with a working class boy, treats him terribly, awfully, then realises he loves him. Kind of. Well, actually, no, "it would be twenty years until I even contemplated marriage between two men".
Part of why I didn't like it is the picture it paints of gay men. All gay men cheat, it seems to say; all gay men go cottaging, desperately. I'm gay and I do neither of those things. Alec Scudder didn't do those things, neither did Edward Phelan. What is Leavitt trying to say then? Upper class gays do? The story was a non-story, the main character didn't change all the way through.
I agree with other reviewers who say it's perfectly acceptable to have a villain as the protagonist, and to be able to enjoy that book or story - but I can't condone the way Brian treated Edward, his cowardice or lying, and worst of all: he learned nothing from his behaviour and its consequences, not even regret.
Read the book if you want to, there's lots of beautiful description in there, and there's no denying Leavitt is a good writer. Having read this, I doubt his storytelling abilities though. Every chapter ends with a wistful, forced image; much like a hollywood blockbuster: "I stopped being young", "Then the letter came", "As if it mattered. As if he weren't watching my every move".
The characters talk of Oscar Wilde, E.M. Forster, and it seems that Leavitt wanted this book to be a sort of Maurice or Wildean tale; it falls far short. It lacks the wit, tenderness and story that Forster or Wilde's works do.
I wish it had been great, I wish Brian Botsford hadn't been such a lazy, cowardly cheat; but it wasn't, and he was.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews