A Canadian man wrestles with his family heritage and his adult life as a gay man in this debut novel.
Ned Baldwin, the lead character in Scott’s dynamic story, has graduated from Trinity, the Canadian college where he’s spent the last half-decade unraveling the mysteries of English literature, his future, and varying aspects of himself. With his college years behind him, Ned swiftly moves to London to get out from under his family’s thumb. It’s the mid-1980s, and he knows there’s work to do on himself, particularly accepting his sexuality in positive terms since he has self-loathingly admitted: “I wake up and it’s the first thing I think of, the last thing before I go to bed, that I’m this…faggot. That I’ll always be this faggot.” At a post-graduation “last supper,” he comes out to his best friend, Daniel. The scene is stiff and subdued, but nothing compares to Ned’s ordeal of revealing his sexuality to his upper-crust parents right after a car accident. Though London is enticing to Ned, it also harbors the potential to be lonely. Luckily, his bohemian aunt Cordelia is nearby, as is a wide rainbow of gay nightclubs and drag shows Ned ventures into. As he spreads his wings in the urban playground, he starts to fully acknowledge his gay feelings and separate himself from his privileged youth growing up in the stiflingly conservative and religiously pious confines of a wealthy family. He instantly embraces the city’s eccentric artist culture, an environment affording him numerous opportunities for diverse friendships and, as with the seductive Italian Luca, a first chance at sex and love. But Ned’s new life isn’t without darkness; a suicide attempt and the specter of AIDS hang over his yearlong exploration of London.
Scott is a clever writer, luxuriating in the meticulous details of his characters and elaborating on the wisps of gossip overheard at dinner parties. While maintaining the book’s brisk pacing and solid focus on its compelling protagonist, the author allows Ned to share the narrative stage with other characters who will draw readers in with their great impact on the hero’s life and future. Ned’s mother, Helena, is portrayed as a confidante who loves her son but remains at odds with his life choices, and his father, Oliver, just wants better things for him, the kind not found in the gay community in London. Ned is also haunted by the voice of an internal saboteur who “sometimes adopted his mother’s arguments, but gave them its own nasty twist.” Fond references to the works of Evelyn Waugh, Oscar Wilde, and others lend the narrative an acute sense of literary sophistication. Ultimately, Scott’s novel paints a vivid portrait of a man riding the first big wave of self-awareness based not on the legends of those tortured souls of the past but on the thrilling potential of what lies ahead. Readers of any sexual orientation will find Ned’s voyage of discovery a vibrant reminder of life’s multicolored bounty.
A potent, vigorous coming-of-age tale featuring themes of identity, sexual liberation, and introspection.
Pub Date: July 1, 2022
Page Count: 259
Publisher: AOS Publishing
Review Posted Online: April 20, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022