A graphic, ghoulish depiction of the more outrÇ aspects of gay sex, as a young London photographer masks his grief over losing his lover to AIDS by throwing himself into the world of personal ads, with grim results. First advertising himself as Bike Boy (black Lycra shorts, pumping thighs, butt in the airyou get the picture), Liam is able to fend off his sad thoughts of Ray by reviewing the flood of mail spawned by his ad. Ensuing contacts include a teenage cyclist, a wealthy Asian, and a professional closeted in the north of England; some of the encounters pass quickly from chat to business. These couplings only whet Liam's appetite, however, and soon he is himself responding to ads across the spectrum, from S&M games to groups. Bounced from being one man's doggie to being bathed and shaved by a trio of curious women; ever on the make with new respondents; continually harassed by the upcountry closet number, who proves to be a dangerous nut-case as well, Liam never stops for long, even though he's aware that his obsession is dragging him into depths where he no longer recognizes himself. Just when his self-degradation seems complete, capped by a brutish visit to Hampstead Heath, notorious as a place for violent trysts, he has another phone calland learns that his hated father has died. While this is the answer to Liam's prayers, it's also another way to lose his bearings, and he responds by sinking even further into the muck his life has become. Not for the squeamish, as they say: a debut novel that's more precise than a pathologist's report (complete with a glossary of terms) and a whole lot more vivid, but even so an eye- opening view of the devastating, horrific effect of loss.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-18063-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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