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on 16 February 2010
Blurbs often say that a book is "unputdownable" or "a pageturner". If that is often a way to trick potential readers into buying worthless rubbish, it's not the case of Rupert Smith's "Man's World". What you have here is a real feast for the reader. When you start reading it, you must reach the end as soon as possible... and then you'd wish to have more and more. "Man's World" tells the fascinating story of a group of gay men in two very different times: England and London in the Fifties and nowadays. Those who take all our modern freedoms for granted hardly know how difficult it was then to live as a gay man and how many hurdles you had to overcome in order to simply survive. Robert (and his friend Jonathan) belong to those who don't know and don't care, as long as they can revel in their world made of drugs, sex, shopping and clubbing... But soon Robert meets 70-year-old Michael, his new neighbour, and discover his past. And little by little Robert understands how lucky he is and how grateful he should be to men like Michael and Stephen for fighting for him too. Written in the form of Michael's diary and Robert's weblog, "Man's world" is funny and sad, wise and moving, sexy and thoughtful. Not only is it extremely readable - in the best tradition of English speaking literature -, but it also conveys what once was called "a message", without ever being highbrow or boringly intellectual. Rupert Smith's best literary achievement so far.
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on 15 February 2010
Rupert Smith's work is known to, and loved by, many of us. Writing as James Lear, he has written some of the funniest and sexiest erotic gay fiction. This book is funny, sexy and brilliantly written as always. But it does more than that. Robert is a young gay man, out on the London gay scene, doing drugs and tricks and lurching pleasurably but unhappily from one sensation to the next. His best friend, Jonathan, a memorable fictional creation, leads an even more unfocussed life, seemingly untouched by adulthood or responsibility.
In the flat beneath Robert's lives Michael, an elderly man whose partner has just died. The book interweaves the life story of Michael, and his now-dead partner, Mervyn, with those of Robert and Jonathan, taking us back to the 50s, to national service, to an era when queers were thought to be sickos and the London gay scene, while vibrant, was clandestine and criminalised. The relationship between Michael and his RAF national service buddy, Mervyn, and the whole atmosphere of the period, are depicted with a mixture of comedy and poignancy reminiscent of David Lodge. The underlying theme of the book is that superficial similarities between the two eras may be few but the common threads of desire and love and loss between the people in each are very close. Smith writes without sentimentality and with understatement and the book is the more powerful for it. As a work of gay fiction in 2010, this one will be hard to beat.
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on 8 January 2018
Loved the style of the author.
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on 24 February 2010
Once upon a time, in Englan you could go to jail for being gay,even if you, like Alan Turing, helped save the world. you had to practiceyour "vice" in secret, in hidden places at night, Then homosexuality was decriminalized, then came the sexual revolution, a change of mores, and, AIDS and Margaret Thatcher's homophobia notwithstanding, now gays in london are free to live their life in the open, like the young protagonist of this novel, who we see move in his new apartment "helped" by a rather exploitive and egotistic friend. Parallel to the blog of the modern gay runs the secret diary of Mychael in the London of fifty years ago, till then and Now shall meet and appraise each other, both searching for love and happiness, but the old cowing in the underground, the new so often taking lightly for granted a freedom the old could only dream and had to fight hard to conquer.
This novel, deliciously witten, with very sympathetic and interesting characters, is one of the best gay novels i've rad. Highly recommended!
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on 2 January 2018
I found this book a couple of years ago in poundland of all places! Its now one of my favourite books ever,brilliant from the first page.
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on 19 February 2010
This book is a rare treasure - an elegantly woven tapestry of gay life, moving deftly between modern-day gay London and the queer underworld of the 1950s. There are so many alluring things about "Man's World"...to name just a few...the way in which Rupert Smith captures the covert, sexy, shadowy world of the 1950s with such vivid intensity....the slow-burn sexual tension and longing in the unfolding relationship between Michael and the gorgeous prize-winning boxer Mervyn....the depiction of friendships between gay men being tentatively forged across generations. This bridging of generations has particular significance, as the younger gay men in the story begin to understand and appreciate the value of the older gay men: how these fabulous, fascinating and brave queens of the past paved the way for the younger gay men, in so many ways. Simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny, deeply thoughtful and breathtakingly sexy, this book will inspire, intrigue and seduce you. It's the first Rupert Smith book I've read and it was an absolute pleasure...can't wait to discover his other works...
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on 10 August 2010
The first twenty pages gave me a false impression of the book,that it was going to be a rather boring 'I did this and then this and then went here' ect. Once your past the mundane opening the book really does spring to life and within a day of having it im already half way through.

The book jumps between the past and the present via different charachters and highlights the contrast in gay culture and the views on homosexuality over the decades. The book manages to do this in subtle, serious and most of all funny ways often putting a smile on my face with some of the remarks made.

The book itself is of a fairly large print making it easy to read (even without my specs on). The book is short enough for you to want more yet not so long that it becomes a chore to read.

A brilliant book with great meaning. Love it!
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on 20 March 2011
The paperback of Rupert Smith's "Man's World" comes with plaudits from three established lesbian/gay writers: Sarah Waters, Jake Arnott and Philip Hensher. Here's how it opens:

"Jonathan was supposed to meet me at nine o'clock this morning, but he turns up at eleven with some story about how he went out with his yoga teacher last night and they ended up getting drunk in Soho and going back to the yoga teacher's house, where Jonathan spent the night, and now of course he is being quite coy about what if anything actually happened. I've said all along that the only reason he got into yoga is so he can keep his legs in the air for extended periods of time."

Those opening sentences neatly set the tone for the whole thing, the second one establishing the brand of camp, risqué humour which permeates the whole novel. Jonathan is a highly stereotypical gay young thing, obsessed with texting, a TV talent show thinly disguised under the name of "Star Search", and indiscriminately dangerous amounts of drugs, clubbing and sex. The narrator Robert, meanwhile, teeters on the edge of the abyss into which Jonathan has clearly already fallen. All this in London today.

The chapters narrated by Robert alternate with excerpts from a diary written by one Michael fifty years previously, coming to terms with his own sexuality at a time when the 1957 Wolfenden report - which would lead to the decriminalization of homosexual acts ten years later - was little more than a rumour.

Robert and Michael find themselves living in the same block of flats...

On one level it's a story about gay men two generations apart, on another it's a story about misunderstandings between those generations. I'm not giving much away by quoting from the final pages, because you can see it coming a mile off:

"You just think of us as the sad old bastards who missed out on the party. Well let me inform you that, without us there wouldn't have been a party."

As a chronicle of the changes and continuities in gay men's lives, "Man's World" is very effective. It is not in the same league as Alan Hollinghurst, but it is intelligently and sensitively observed, and the dialogue rings true (which is always a good sign, and a necessary one). Perhaps too many coincidences for some people's taste, but entirely recommended as light (and very gay) reading.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 November 2011
Man's World tells two parallel stories, the one in the present day told by Robert, and the one set in the fifties my Michael. Both gay young men they would appear initially to have little else in common, yet their lives follow a very similar path.

Michael is a conscript serving in the RAF, believes he is probably queer but hides it, he thinks successfully, but some can see straight through his pretence. These include two fellow conscripts, the obviously queer and effeminate Stephen, and the handsome and well built Mervyn who has high aspirations.

Robert has no doubts that he is gay, and lives life to the full clubbing and enjoying recreational drugs along with is best friend, the effeminate Jonathan. He has a relationship with Stuart, but his life is getting out of control and his job is at risk. His workmate Simon is concerned, but Robert has little time for the uncool Simon.

Robert and Michael meet when Robert moves into the flat above Michael, and as the two men tell their own stories in alternate chapters we begin to recognise the many similarities in their lives, including their relationships with their friends and lovers. Both men ultimately find contentment, but for each it will come at a cost.

My initial impression after the first couple of chapters was that this would be a slight but funny entertainment, but as I got into the account my view changed. It is frequently funny, but it is far from slight, rather it is very perceptive and thought provoking, and quite moving. The parallels are sometimes subtle and adapted to fit the difference in the acceptance of gays according to the time period. Eventually Robert and finally Jonathan learn from their older counterparts with positive consequences.
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on 5 September 2010
I loved this book which covered off the lives of modern gay guys living the life in London. everyone on the scene knows a "Jonathan" character. The best quote: He thinks "share" was a singer who sang believe.

This was juxtaposed with the story of an older gay guy and life he lived. Although there are similarities, but also a great insight into how gay life used to be, and the struggle that was fought for us today.

This was an enjoyable read.
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