Top critical review
Worthy moral tale, encased in overblown wordiness.
on 3 August 2014
For two decades I've heard various folk saying what a wonderful novel this is and so I've read it in order to be impressed, to be rewarded. But all it is is a very very long-winded morality tale. There are only three significant dramatic events in the entire 300 pages! And two of these prove to be deliberately un-dramatic anti-climaxes, meant simply to reinforce the simple love story.
The tale is as follows: two extraordinarily handsome men meet, they have a sadomasochistic relationship which you are led to sense may go badly wrong, they continue to frequent the bar run by "Madame", then against a backdrop of homophobic attacks in the city Madam in an unusual act of love and charity brings the two men together and eventually "marries" them in a sort of ceremony which she devises upon the stage in her bar. All along fatherly letters have been arriving for one of the two men from an off-stage person called "Father", but shortly after the "marriage" his condition deteriorates such that he is brought into the two men's household and they care with great dedication for him not only as a dying invalid but as if he were their own baby. After he dies, the two men are accosted by homophobic attackers in a street one evening but the love of one of the two men for the other is so powerful that his verbal rage alone sends the homophobes fleeing. And then these two extraordinarily handsome men wander the city hand in hand like fearless conquerors till the early hours of the morning, apparently unchallenged by a single person, even when they dance arm in arm in some place where heterosexual couples are dancing in public.
And that's it. A tale that shows that S&M lovers and the habitues of a rather colourful gay bar can be deeply loving persons.
Perhaps this message seemed bold and remarkable when it was published back in the 1990s but even if I had read it then I think I would have found it rather overblown. It's elegiac, and it's somewhat daring, but it's dreadfully lacking in plot. Endless elegiac repetition cannot make up for lack of action.
I could give this book the three Amazon stars which indicate "It's OK", but I'm afraid the excessive, repetitious, and pointless wordiness of this novel inclines me more towards giving it the two stars which in Amazon's review system mean that, despite the novel's worthy message, overall "I don't like it".