Gerry B's Book Reviews

Sandel, by Angus Stewart

A Masterpiece of the writer’s art – tender, evocative and sensitive

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sandel - coverStory blurb: The story of two young lovers whose passion for one another is exclusive, lyrical, tender and subject to the tensions that any intense romantic relationship is liable to.

A love affair between a thirteen-year-old schoolboy (Tony Sandel) and a nineteen-year-old undergraduate (David), written and published at time before moral panic set in and the false dogma was established that all such relationships damaged the younger partner for life. Sandel is an evocative portrait of boarding-school and Oxbridge life and the intense, often romantic friendships that flourish there. It is also a novel of sexual awakening, whose light touch disguises the profound emotions that such friendships generate; the relationship portrayed is partly of equals and partly, as often happens, one where it is the younger partner who decides whether and how it should persist.

About the author: Angus Stewart’s [1936 – 1998] first published work was ‘The Stile’, which appeared in the 1964 Faber anthology Stories by New Writers. He won the Richard Hillary Memorial Prize in 1965. His breakthrough to public and critical attention came in 1968 with his first novel, Sandel. Set in the pseudonymous St Cecilia’s College, Oxford, the book revolves around the unorthodox love between a 19-year-old undergraduate, David Rogers, and a 13-year-old chorister, Antony Sandel. The novel appears to have been based on real events, recounted by Stewart in an article under the pseudonym ‘John Davis’ in the 1961 anthology Underdogs, edited for Weidenfeld and Nicolson by Philip Toynbee. The story is treated with delicacy and sensitivity, and has a place in English literature comparable in importance to Roger Peyrefitte’s treatment of the same subject in his 1943 novel Les amitiés particulières. Over the past forty years Sandel has become a cult gay novel.

After Sandel Stewart moved to Tangier in Morocco, partly as a project in self-discovery and partly to experiment with drugs in a sympathetic environment. His Moroccan experiences resulted in two further books, a novel entitled Snow in Harvest (1969) and a travel diary entitled Tangier: A Writer’s Notebook (1977). He also wrote poetry, some of which was published as Sense and Inconsequence (1972), with an introduction by his father’s longstanding friend W. H. Auden.

After his mother’s death in 1979 Stewart returned to England, living for the final twenty years of his life in an annex to his father’s home at Fawler outside Oxford. He was an accomplished portrait photographer. For much of his life he suffered from clinical depression.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Scen from Les amitiés particulières.There is currently a controversy raging over Amazon.com’s decision to arbitrarily exclude certain types of erotic novels from its catalogue. However, to the best of my knowledge it has yet to define in specific terms which novels are unacceptable, beyond some broad-stroke classifications—i.e., underage sex, depictions of rape and incest, or bestiality, etc.

To say the least, this is an ambitious undertaking given the millions of indie books alone (for these seem to be the ones targeted the most), so I expect there are many ‘babies’ thrown out with the bath water—certainly some of my friends have complained of this already.

My reaction is that it is a backdoor approach to censorship by a monopoly that has little regard for its authors anyway. This has been my personal experience, and if asked I will gladly provide chapter and verse regarding the details.

Part of this purge can also be attributed to a hypocritically-prudish North America that prohibits an author from writing about sexual activity  with a minor under the age of eighteen, but sets the bar for consensual sex at sixteen, and adolescent-to adolescent sex at thirteen, i.e.

163.1 (1) In this section, “child pornography” means

(b) any written material, visual representation or audio recording that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act;

(c) any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose, of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act; or

Age of consent:

From 1890 until recently, the age at which a youth could consent to nonexploitative sexual activity was 14 years. With the recent change to the criminal code of Canada, the age of consent for nonexploitative sexual activity is now 16 years.

Nonexploitative activity is defined as sexual activity that does not involve prostitution or pornography, and where there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency between the persons involved (1). A coach, spiritual leader, teacher, school principal, guidance counsellor or family member are all examples of persons in a position of trust or authority with youth.

For exploitative sexual activity (prostitution or pornography, or where there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency), the age of consent is 18 years.

The spirit of the new legislation is not to regulate consensual teenage sexual activity. To this effect, there are a few notable exceptions to the law:

  1. Youth 12 or 13 years of age can consent to nonexploitative sexual activity with peers when the age difference is no more than two years. For example, a 12-year-old child is deemed capable of consenting to sexual activity with a 14-year-old, but not a 15-year-old.
  2. Youth 14 or 15 years of age can consent to nonexploitative sexual activity when the age difference is no more than five years. For example, a 15-year-old can consent to having sexual intercourse with a 20-year-old, but not with a 21-year-old.

Children younger than 12 years of age can never consent to sexual activity with anyone, of any age, regardless of whether they say they do. (Canadian Paediatric Society – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2532909/)

With all this in mind I immediately ordered a copy (from Amazon) of the late Angus Stewart’s much acclaimed novel, Sandel, [Pilot Productions, August 10, 2013]. Like it’s equally acclaimed predecessor, Les amitiés particulières, by Roger Peyrefitte (1943), it deals with younger/older love in a tender, evocative and sensitive way. In fact, they are both masterpieces of the writer’s art.

Scene from Les amitiés particulièresSandel tells the story of Anthony Sandel, a choir boy at St Cecilia’s College, Oxford, and an undergraduate organist (David Rogers). At first their relationship focuses on their mutual love of religious music, but over time it progresses logically and with great credibility into an erastes and eronomous type of love. However, remembering that it was first written and published in the 1960s, this aspect is more implied than explicit; to the extent that the Daily Telegraph wrote of it: “A love not despicable.”

However, as one reviewer has pointed out, the 60s may have been quite ‘liberal’ compared to today, and I quote:

“It is merely difficult to imagine today an aunt who would think or dare to rescue from their outraged school her 13-year-old nephew caught in his master’s bed, and dispatch the lovers on a ten-week honeymoon in Italy. It is impossible though to imagine anything but imminent catastrophe if today a choirboy being interviewed by newsmen were to tell them about his love for his teacher and the latter punched one of them to the floor for making snide remarks about it. The threat “You shouldn’t have done that,” couldn’t possibly sound “unconvincing.” The newsmen would know only too well that a visit to the police would ensure an investigation almost bound to wreck the lives of both man and boy.”

Or,

“One wonders how long it will be before the child abuse lobby succeeds in imposing on productions of Romeo and Juliet the interruption of the most romantic scenes with sour warnings that despite the strongest contrary indications love involving a pubescent is always really no more than false cover for a satanic plot to satisfy selfish lust. ~ – Edmund Marlowe, author of Alexander’s Choice, an Eton boy’s love story.

I agree wholeheartedly. To Sandel – Five Bees for a true masterpiece.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 57,278

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Springhill Nova Scotia Mine Disaster – Oct. 23, 1958“The Springhill Bump”

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

            

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Get an autographed copy of my e-books, Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears through Authorgraph. Click on the link below to learn how.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

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October 28, 2013 Posted by | a love story, Angus Stewart, Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature, Older/younger relationships | 9 Comments

Hadrian’s Lover, by Patricia Marie Budd

An interesting and thought-provoking story.

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hadrian's lover - coverStory blurb:Hadrian’s Lover is a stunning novel about a dystopian society disguised as a utopian one…it raises difficult questions about right and wrong, government control, and an individual’s right to express himself freely and be accepted for his sexual preference, regardless of what it is.” – Tyler R. Tichelaar, PH.D. and author of the award-winning Narrow Lives What if you lived in a world where homosexuality was the norm and all forms of heterosexual behavior were illegal? In the near future the human population has grown to such excess that the earth is no longer able to sustain humanity’s astronomical numbers. Poverty, starvation, and disease are rampant. Only the country of Hadrian seems able to defend itself against the ravages of overpopulation by restricting its growth and encasing its country behind a defensive wall. Procreation does not happen by chance in Hadrian. There are no unwanted pregnancies. No accidents. All pregnancies occur through in vitro fertilization, and every citizen is responsible for rearing one of Hadrian’s children. Heterosexuality is deemed the ill that has led humanity to the brink. In Hadrian, no one dares to express interest in the opposite sex; to do so would result in exile or re-education. Hadrian’s Lover tells the story of Todd Middleton, a teenage boy struggling to keep the secret of his heterosexuality. Read on, and feel with him as he suffers the indignities of a society determined to “cure” him of his plight.

About the author: Patricia Marie Budd is a high school English teacher living in northern Alberta, Canada. She has been a safe zone for her LGBT students throughout her twenty year career. Hadrian’s Lover is her third novel.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I must admit that sci-fi, fantasy stories are not my first choice, but occasionally one comes along that peaks my interest, and Hadrian’s Lover by Patricia Marie Budd [New Generation Publishing, September 10, 2013] is one of them.

This is a ‘what if’ story set sometime in the twenty-second century, and supposes a world in which GBLT individuals rule, and heterosexuals have been declared both deviant and illegal in an independent nation, called, ‘Hadrian.’

In the surrounding world the heterosexual population has screwed itself into a crisis with overcrowding, disease, starvation and chaos, but emerging out of this morass is a sort of Shangri La of balance and proportion—albeit micro managed to the nth degree. However, to belong to it one must be homosexual. Reproduction is allowed, but only selectively and by in vitro fertilization.

The main character of the story is Todd Middleton, a young man who has the misfortune to be born *shock* heterosexual. It is with him that the ‘point’ of the story comes to the fore; for Todd at first tries to conceal his sexuality, and then suffers the same sort of bullying harassment that some homosexual men and women continue to experience today. The difference being, of course, that now the majority has become the minority.

Fantasy stories of this nature are fun to write because the sky’s the limit for imagination; however, it seems the publisher’s and editor’s respective ‘skies’ were a lot lower regarding this story. This raises some issues with me, not to mention the hackles on the back of my neck.

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, the definition of child pornography regarding written material is as follows:

163.1 (1) In this section, “child pornography” means

  •  (b) any written material, visual representation or audio recording that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act;

  • (c) any written material whose dominant characteristic is the description, for a sexual purpose,* of sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act; [Emphasis mine.] *Note the qualification.

It is probably best, therefore, to play it safe by aging your characters 18 years or older, but any publisher or editor (or vendor) who gets squeamish after that, I would personally tell to go pee in their hat. After all, who is writing this novel, you or the publisher, etc.?!

Over all, however, I thought the story was interesting, a bit pedagogical in places (…a occupational habit for teachers), but certainly thought provoking. Three and one-half bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 56,871

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great-spirit collage copy

Coming of Age on the TrailI am very happy to announce that I am within ten pages of completing the above manuscript. It has been a long ‘gestation period,’ four and one-half years, but I can say with confidence that it is a unique western genre novel, set in British Columbia, and with a mythological twist. Anticipated release date, March 2013.

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Coming soon – I will be launching a new blog shortly, Authors in Depth, dedicated to introducing new and established authors. This will be a free forum to talk about themselves, their books, and any personal interests and anecdotes they may wish to share. It is open to anyone (and all) with one or more published books to their credit. Authors who are interested can contact me at: gerrybbooks@yahoo.ca 

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Hurricane Hazel – Oct. 15 – 16, 1954. Canada’s perfect storm.

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

            

      

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Homoerotic, Male bisexual | Leave a comment

Wild Onions, by Sarah Black

A tale of hope and heritage, as well as a gentle love story. 

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Wild Onions - coverStory blurb: THE YEAR was 1882, and the last of the native tribes had dropped to their knees and slipped on their yokes under the boots and guns of the US Cavalry. The Blackfoot were the last, and then the buffalo hunt failed. The vast plains were barren and empty, and the people began to starve. Desperation spread like poison across the land. Evil men, seeing their chance, fed on the hunger, ate the clean hearts of the people. The blood that was spilled in 1882 has not been avenged today. The ghosts are waiting for someone to set them free.

Robert looked over to the corner of the porch. Their old fishing poles were leaning against the screen. He carried them back to his chair, started untangling the nylon fishing line. Val’s pole was for serious fishermen, a supple thin Orvis fly rod with a reel full of braided yellow nylon. His pole was cheap, from Wal-Mart, with a soft cork handle and a reel with a sticky thumb button. Val laughed when he saw it, said it was for little boys fishing at reservoirs.

He put Val’s pole back in the corner, carried his down the slope to the river bank. It took him a little while to find his balance again. He didn’t try to get into the water. That would probably be too much for his shaky leg. But after a few casts he got his rhythm again, let the weight fly out low over the water.

There was a splash a bit upriver, and a moment later a young man appeared, walking down the middle of the shallow river from rock to rock in green hip waders, dressed in the dark green uniform of Fish and Wildlife. He had a fishing pole over his shoulder and a woven oak creel. From the weight of it on his shoulder, Robert could see he’d had some luck. He was Indian, Blackfoot, maybe, and his long hair was tied back at his collar. He raised a hand in greeting.

Robert nodded back. “Evening.” He reeled in his line, and the man watched the red and white bobber bouncing across the water in front of him.
The man’s face was impassive, but he blinked a couple of times when he watched the line come out of the water, bobber, lead weight, no hook. No fish. “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you have a fishing license,” the man said. “Since you aren’t really fishing.”

Robert nodded to the creel over the man’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”

The man eased the basket off his shoulder, dipped it down into the icy river water. “Yes, I sure did.” He slapped the Fish and Wildlife patch on his uniform shirt. “Course, I don’t need no stinkin’ license! Just another example of the generalized corruption of the Federal Government.”

Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”

The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Three Piegan Blacckfoot chiefs on the prairies of Montana.

Three Piegan Blacckfoot chiefs on the prairies of Montana.

And speaking of shared dreams (…as does the story of Wild Onions by Sarah Black) I believe she and I may have shared a couple of visions as well. My latest work-in-progress-novel deals with forgotten legends and unsettled spirits too, and so I read this story with particular interest,

It is a lovely story—a true romance—and somewhat unique inasmuch as it deals with love across cultural lines.

The story opens poignantly with Robert Mitchell visiting the cabin he frequently visited with his deceased lover, Val.  The cabin goes way back in Val’s ancestry, but beset with medical bills Robert is now thinking of selling it to get out from under these. However, once he gets there and surrounded by memories, he has a change of thought.

Enter Cody Calling Eagle [my main character’s name is ‘Cory’], a Blackfoot descendent  who is still as fresh-faced and unaffected as the wilderness around Salmon River, where he is employed as a conservation officer.

He is like a breath of fresh air that fans the embers of love within Robert, and Cody is open to it as well. Then, as mentioned above, they began experiencing visions of a disturbing past connected to the cabin and Val and Cody’s ancestry. These also begin to have an affect on their relationship, and so Robert has to work hard to overcome this.

At another level, Ms Black weaves  into the storyline some of the history of the Piegan Blackfeet, i.e. the 1882 disappearance of the buffalo, and the ‘Winter of Starvation”  (1883-84),  during which 500 Blackfeet died of starvation.

Despite this it is a story of hope and dedication, as well as a gentle love story. Five bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 56,523

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Presenting the revised cover for my upcoming novel: Coming of Age on the Trail – Part One 

Presenting the revised cover for my forthcoming novel: ComiNG of Age on the Trail - PART ONE.

Presenting the revised cover for my forthcoming novel: ComiNG of Age on the Trail – PART ONE.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  “Spadina House:  One of the great houses of Canada.

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

      

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Cross Cultural romance, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, Native history | 2 Comments

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad, by Alison Wearing

An engaging and unique memoir that will charm as well as entertain…

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confessions of a fairy's daughterStory blurb: Alison Wearing led a largely carefree childhood until she learned, at the age of 12, that her family was a little more complex than she had realized. Sure her father had always been unusual compared to the other dads in the neighbourhood: he loved to bake croissants, wear silk pyjamas around the house, and skip down the street singing songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. But when he came out of the closet in the 1970s, when homosexuality was still a cardinal taboo, it was a shock to everyone in the quiet community of Peterborough, Ontario—especially to his wife and three children.

Alison’s father was a professor of political science and amateur choral conductor, her mother was an accomplished pianist and marathon runner, and together they had fed the family a steady diet of arts, adventures, mishaps, normal frustrations and inexhaustible laughter. Yet despite these agreeable circumstances, Joe’s internal life was haunted by conflicting desires. As he began to explore and understand the truth about himself, he became determined to find a way to live both as a gay man and also a devoted father, something almost unheard of at the time. Through extraordinary excerpts from his own letters and journals from the years of his coming out, we read of Joe’s private struggle to make sense and beauty of his life, to take inspiration from an evolving society and become part of the vanguard of the gay revolution in Canada.
 
Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is also the story of “coming out” as the daughter of a gay father. Already wrestling with an adolescent’s search for identity when her father came out of the closet, Alison promptly “went in,” concealing his sexual orientation from her friends and spinning extravagant stories about all of the “great straight things” they did together. Over time, Alison came to see that life with her father was surprisingly interesting and entertaining, even oddly inspiring, and in fact, there was nothing to hide.

About the author: Alison Wearing is the author of the internationally acclaimed travel memoir Honeymoon in Purdah – an Iranian journey and the writer/performer of two award-winning one-woman plays.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the common bug-a-boos run up the flagpole by conservative Christians and other homophobic fear mongers is the so-called ‘risk’ to children that homosexuality and same-sex marriage allegedly represent. Everything from paedophilia to psychological maladjustment. The fact is, as demonstrated by Alison Wearing in her recent memoir-in four-parts, Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad, [Knopf Canada , May 7, 2013], homophobia probably has a greater negative impact on the offspring of a gay parent than the sexual orientation ever could have.

Her engaging memoir is uniquely structured into four perspectives. Her early life in a somewhat avant-garde family, where the mother—a talented musician and marathoner—chose to reasonably follow her personal pursuits, while the father—a professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario—was quite happy to pick up the domestic side of things. Nonetheless, young Alison had no problem with this … Except for one rather disastrous birthday party, featuring a birthday fare of “Gruyère soufflé, waxed beans in tarragon butter, and crème brûlée,” which for a seven-year-old speaks for itself.

This part also included her father’s coming out, but because of the prevailing homophobic attitude of the  time (1980s) Alison goes into denial.

The second part is written by the father, and relies on a journal he maintained at the time; plus some newspaper clippings having to do with homosexuality. I personally appreciated this approach because it gave me a deeper insight into a complex situation than I would have gotten from the author’s single POV. It also provided a brief insight into the social mores of the era.

The third part is written by the mother. It is quite short, but charming, and it completes the main character’s perspectives.

Lastly, the fourth part is an update of how things are today.

I like autobiographies, biographies and memoirs, but I particularly like this one. Adding the other two points of view is a unique approach—to me, anyway—and it added so much to my understanding of an otherwise complex situation. Moreover, on a personal level, Peterborough is only a few miles from my original home town, and the 1980s was a transition period for me as well a gay society: from the dark ages of the ‘Bath House Raids’ to more modern liberalism.

For these reasons I recommend it most highly, but as always this is my opinion. Five bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 56,184

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  John Damien: Too gay for Canadian Racing.

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

      

            

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back t

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Coming out, Gay non-fiction, Memoir, Semi-autobiographical | Leave a comment

   

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