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CHARMING YOUNG MAN by Eliot Schrefer Kirkus Star


by Eliot Schrefer

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 2023
ISBN: 9780062982391
Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

A young pianist seeks to understand himself while trying to gain a foothold in high society.

Seventeen-year-old Léon Delafosse is a piano prodigy, but he lacks the connections and know-how to find a patron and climb the social ladder in belle epoque Paris. Luckily—or, perhaps, unluckily—he meets the charismatic writer Marcel Proust, who introduces him to the fickle young Count Robert de Montesquiou. Robert could become his patron—and maybe more—if Léon plays his cards right, but Robert’s patronage comes with more perils than Léon expected. As Léon attempts to learn the social games of the upper classes, he also struggles with his attraction to other boys and what that means for his life and career. As related in the author’s note, the novel is based on the life of the real Léon Delafosse, a French pianist and composer who is largely unknown outside his wistful portrait by John Singer Sargent and his unfavorable fictionalized appearance in Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. With these details and Delafosse’s and Proust’s letters as research material, the author creates an intimate, sensitive, gay coming-of-age story. Each description paints a sensual image of Léon’s world, from the rural idyll of his childhood home to his cramped Parisian apartment and Robert’s sumptuous town house. Knowledge of the era is not necessary to enjoy Léon’s story, but readers who do have that context will find even more to appreciate.

Beautifully realized and a pleasure to read.

(Historical fiction. 13-18)