Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Rory's Boys - Alan Clark

‘My story was more complex than I had known it to be...'

Rory Blaine is a very successful advertising executive in London who discovers the grandmother he has been estranged from for many years is now close to death. He reluctantly visits her and whilst there meets Vic d'Orsay, a popular singer now in his seventies but still going strong. When his grandmother passes away, Rory is surprised to inherit his grand familial home, Mount Royal in Hampstead, a place that holds many memories for him, but which he has also not seen for many years. When he takes possession, Vic appears again and suggests an idea for the future role of the place, and a brilliant plan is born; 'Mount Royal was about to become Britain’s first residential home for gay men.’

Rory has turned 45 and when he experiences unexpected rejection in his personal life he begins to think about his life, what happened in the past, where he is now and what might lay ahead. Openly gay, he wonders if there will ever be a man who he can spend his life with, whether he can move beyond promiscuity and brief affairs and short-lived (albeit very pleasurable) gratification, on to finding something lasting.

This novel has a first person narrative from Rory throughout, in the form of a record of thoughts and events as suggested by his therapist. This allows the reader a very intimate look at his life, his innermost thoughts and fears, and his relationships, throughout the story, and has the feel of a very personal tale. 

I enjoyed this novel a lot; I thought the writing was very honest and moving at times, and also funny, entertaining and witty; some bits really made me laugh and reading other parts I felt very sad. It is frank and open about sex, casual encounters and gay relationships.

This story felt so real, at times Rory's pain was strong, the loneliness after being disowned at a young age by his grandmother, the only family he really had left, and his difficulties in coming to terms with himself, as well as with getting older, finding his place in the world, and accepting his past if he is to move onwards. Vic offers him valuable advice about forgiveness that was based on his own very difficult experiences, which are revealed in the novel through a very well written encounter that exposes the awful bigotry and ignorance of some in society.
Vic is a charismatic, affable and layered character. Rory observes of him that ‘he certainly wasn’t like elderly men were supposed to be. It had obviously never occurred to him to disengage with the world, to step back and leave life to the younger generation. He never stood on his dignity either so somehow, however he behaved, he kept it.’

There are some very touching friendships that grow and evolve over the course of the novel, with some characters, especially Elspeth, coming into their own as the story progressed. In fact, when I had finished reading the book, I realised I really would miss some of these characters, so vividly had they been drawn by the author.

Some of the elderly gay characters have evidently had to hide their sexuality from most of those around them for much of their lives, indeed, as mentioned in the novel, for some of them, they could remember when their love was considered a crime. I had never thought about the lack of places for older gay people to be able to live where they would be accepted and cherished rather than judged and questioned, and I thought it was brilliant to see this idea being discussed in fiction. 

The wealthy older men who come to reside at Mount Royal in its new life as a residential home are the 'Rory's Boys' of the novel's title. There are some fascinating, entertaining and endearing characters amongst them. One of the larger-than-life residents remarks that ‘we are each of us surprising and fascinating till our last breath', a line that I loved.

There are plenty of twists and turns within the plot too, some that I guessed at and some that certainly took me by surprise.

This is a really good first novel; the author imbues his prose with honesty, compassion, poignancy and humour, and has crafted an entertaining plot and some great characters.

Source - I was kindly sent a copy of this novel to read and review.
Publisher - Bliss, an imprint of Arcadia Books
Visit the author's website here

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lindsey – I have been reading some of the posts o your blog. It is awesome!

    This sounds like a very worthwhile book. I like it that it that as you describe the story seems real. I think that is a sign that the characters are well crafted.


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