The Handsomest Man in the World
8 journalers for this copy...
1. elstaplador (UK)
2. violoncellix (Netherlands)
3. Tsjara (Netherlands)
4. Andrasthe (Austria) > book is here
5. Okyrhoe (Greece, int'l)
6. billbooks (Australia, int'l)
back to pam99 (Scotland)
(this will be Team Ruritania's entry in the Boxing event in the BookCrossing Olympics - http://bookcrossingolympics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/boxing.html)
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:
In the beginning, I found it hard to get a sense of who the protagonist was, and often found it difficult to reconcile the descriptions of what happened in the early 1950s with the way these happenings were interpreted by the "I" from the perspective of the present. It is clear that the protagonist was not much given to self-reflection, but that doesn't mean that the events themselves are not fascinating!
Indeed, similarly to pam99 for Scotland, I was reminded of stories of older gay men that I know, who have grown up in smaller rural communities in The Netherlands, and for whom "Don't ask, don't tell" has also been the important rule of survival.
Here is a quote from the book:
I want to tell you about love in the 1950s. It was different We hadn't had the 1960s yet. We didn't have rock and roll. We were brought up on songs that suggested that the best part of love was loss (...) Love was usually for someone impossible who would never return your love. Or who had once loved you and now had left you behind. Forever.
This was probably a residue of World War II, when men and women were separated and love was very much of the moment. During that time love and sex didn't inevitably lead to marriage and that was probably the wedge that led us to believe and accept that love was temporary, and that led us even to enjoy the pang caused by that temporariness.
At any rate, I always felt that my love for Fred was fragile. His arms around me, his lips on my face, the warmth of his body in bed, of all these things I always felt keenly aware.
Thanks pam99 for organising the bookring!
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:
I liked the somewhat autobiographical feel of the book. It seems to capture the atmosphere of the 1950s quite well, which felt more carefree to me than I would have guessed (or maybe this is because of the narrator). Sad how the relationship between the protagonist and Fred was doomed from the beginning.
Also found it interesting that even in same sex couples there still seems to be one who is the woman and the other the man?
The book is now travelling to Andrasthe in Austria.
This book feels very much as if the protagonist would tell his story directly to you - maybe in a little French bistro or even in a hip New York Sandwich shop. The narrator recounts his first and only "true" love, another sailor he met during tests at the Bikini Atoll. He is very sweet and romantic, not quite innocent, but certainly not experienced and meets Fred, a very provincial young enlisted man, who falls in love with him. They stay together for certain periods of time and after they get out of the navy, they live together for a short while.
Bill, the narrator, is very much in love and adores Fred. Unfortunately, Fred has something of an identity crisis and is likewise ashamed and happy, dismissive of and curious about his lover. Their love in the 50s couldn't have been an easy one, but there are no external factors in the book. All the conflict comes from within. Nevertheless, the tone of the narrator - who (as if it was an oral account) breaks his story into different parts and uses flashbacks and flash-forwards, foreshadowing and quite some omission - always keeps light and easy going. Some parts of the story might be very serious - but Will's demeanor never deteriorates.
I did like parts of the book, the descriptions about New York and the people, the housing and so on, but I did not entirely enjoy the book. I was sometimes a bit thrown by the light tone of narration, by the lack of emotional exploration - apart from the undying teenage love of the protagonist, of course - and by the sombre ending. Should this be all? I realise that it is about men in the 1950s and that restraint and decorum were ever present - but Bill puts up with Fred's transferred guilt without putting up a bit of a fight? Nothing? Maybe I'm just too young to relate ;) who knows.
Thanks pam99 for including me in the ring, and Andrasthe for posting the book to me!
While the title of this book leans to a superficial idea of physical attraction, it does not reveal the depth of connectedness which grows between two young men within a backdrop of the atomic testing in the Pacific post World War Two. The longer range perspective over their lifetimes is well nuanced and hints at learning about losses and gains with increased maturity. A very worthwhile read.