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on 6 September 2000
From the moment his drug-addicted mother drops dead on the platform of a London railway station and seven-year-old Johnny allows himself to be carried away in the arms of a complete stranger, it is clear that Neal Drinnan is intent on taking you into some very morally dubious territory. The stranger turns out to be Shamash, a famous Australian dancer whose own seven-year-old son has just died, and who hits on the plan of taking Johnny back to Syndney with him to take his son's place. So Johnny becomes Vaslav, and finds himself transplanted from the Brighton council estate he grew up on to the bohemian world of a prominent and respected gay artist. But as Vaslav grows older, his own emerging sexuality (fuelled perhaps by the constant gay lifestyle surrounding him) propels him towards blackmailing his 'father' into a sexual relationship which, once it's begun, threatens to bring the new life he has constructed crashing down on top of him.
In many ways, this is a book which sets out to be problematic. The implication that, because Shamash is gay, it is only a matter of time before a sexual relationship develops between him and his 'son' may well upset many gay men (while the implication that young boys growing up on Brighton council estates are somehow destined to become rent boys when they get older seems downright bizarre). Where the book triumphs, however, is in daring to illustrate how not all cases of alleged child abuse can be pigeon-holed into 'the abuser' and 'the victim'. Johnny/Vaslav's fatal flaw is his precociousness and his ability to manipulate others to get what (he think) he wants. Shamash's flaw is his inability to withstand his son's relentlessness. In the end it is both of them who make the mistake, and the book is narrated by Johnny/Vaslav with the benefit of hindsight, knowing that he is as much to blame for the consequences as anyone.
Well written, moving, frightening and often unexpectedly funny, this is a courageous attempt to examine a highly contentious issue from a different angle.
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on 23 July 1998
From the moment I picked this book up I couldn't put it down.
Set mainly in Sydney, Glove Puppet is the story of love between and man and boy and the tragic events that surround it. It demonstrates how the media, the law, and the public can totally misinterpret people's circumstances.
Order it now for when it is published in the U.S. - in fact order two copies - one for yourself and one for a friend because this is one book you'll want to keep and read again.
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