‘Chance, as they say, is a fine thing, so when it does come you have to seize it. Sure, it might burn you, might freeze you, might turn you to dust and ashes. But it’s the one thing that matters in the end, and you simply have to go for it.’
On a visit to Yorkshire in the mid-1980s, Matt meets Billy. The love that develops between them, however, is constantly menaced, not least by the insanely possessive and malevolent Arthur, and after passing through stormy waters the relationship is abruptly broken off. Then something brings the boys together again. Something yet more threatening than anything they have previously faced.
‘I really enjoyed it. There’s a nice psychological realism to the novel [capturing] the interior doubts and anxieties of the characters in their growing relationship . . . you feel the tension between Billy and Matt, especially in relation to the quite vile Arthur, who is contrasted nicely with the more fatherly and sympathetic Archie. Quite often, I was reminded of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, with the shared house setup, and how people’s lives intersect. I also liked the erotic scenes, which I think are sensitively done’ – Max
‘I very much enjoyed it and found that I sympathised with the characters. I was always clear what they wanted and hoped they would get it. I thought the bittersweet ending worked well – their journey had an appropriate resolution yet it wasn’t a clichéd happily ever after’ – Rebecca
‘One of the things I really liked was the feeling of how much of a jolt it was for Billy to move from the North to London. The scene when he visits Matt’s parents in Sevenoaks was so pivotal – that feeling of being an outsider. It was very sharply observed’ – Nuala
‘I liked the changes of narrator from Matt to Billy to Clint and then into the third person. I also liked the description of the shared house, and there are some sharply observed scenes, like the scene with Matt’s parents where Billy feels like a pawn. I liked the voice of Matt’s friend Clint – the camp tone helped to distinguish him and make him an individual . . . I really liked the Blakean language (‘O rose, thou art sick’) and the description of Billy’s feelings about his body, how he looks at its beautiful surface and fears what lurks within. Very chilling and spot on. Also Billy’s withdrawal from life/people. And the ending with Nature, the Greek sunset – time stretching out . . . or not . . .’ – Elizabeth
‘In recounting the story of the love affair between the London-based Matt and his lover Billy who lives in the North of England and describing its pleasures and tensions, Les Brookes creates a swiftly-paced narrative that propels us into following its intriguing twists by means of his lively use of dialogue and vivid character portrayal. The novel, set in the 1980s, explores topics relevant to gay men living in the decade, one which was to prove difficult for LGBT people due to the fact that the promises of freedom offered by the 1970s Gay Liberation Movement were overshadowed by the advent of AIDS and , in the UK, by the institution of the oppressive Section 28. Brookes perceptively contrasts gay life in the countryside in the period with that in the city. He illustrates how, in the former, the individual’s narrow choice of friends and partners could lead him on occasion to form unsavoury and even exploitative contacts and connections. The motley group of gay men who congregate in Northern pub where Matt and Billy initially meet, with their distrust and fear of what they regard as the ‘intrusion’ of strangers, is powerfully described. So too is the figure of the possessive and repulsive Arthur and the mysterious hold he appears to have on Billy. Brookes’ skilful utilisation of different narrators enhances our understanding of the key characters in the text in more ways than one. As well as furnishing us with an insight into their different viewpoints, it gives us a glimpse into their backgrounds and cultural attitudes. I very much enjoyed reading the novel and am impressed by the way in which he evokes the relationships central to it and their psychological complexity. I look forward to reading his future work’ – Paulina