Top positive review
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Stark, sensuous and arresting.
on 10 January 2010
When it was published in 1948, this book was both a scandal and a best-seller. Sixty years on, it is not hard to see why. The book tells the story of Jim, whose passionate weekend affair with his teenage best friend, Bob, confirms him as homosexual and instills in him an obessive belief that his future life will only come together when he and Bob are reunited. The book tells of Jim's forays through the secret gay worlds of Hollywood, the merchant marine and the armed services in WWII. What would have shocked at the time is not the depiction of Jim's gay afairs, which are discreetly told, but the revelation that an all-American boy, tall, handsome and athletic, could be both the model citizen and, at the same time, lead a secret life, and a secret life shared by thousands of others. At one point, Jim reflects that 'obviously the world was not what it seemed. Anything might be true of anybody'. That was what was shocking about the book: it was too near the bone.
Even today, parts of that aspect of the story still resonate. What gives the book timeless appeal, however, is the depiction of Jim and his vain attempts to find personal fulfillment on his waqy to the longed-for reunion with Bob which, of course, turns out to be a disaster. In one sense, the book is dated since it strongly suggests that, in society at the time, the possibility of happiness for gay men is non-existent, but its story still resonates way beyond its undoubted historical interest.