This is a novel by the Booker Prize winning writer from this previous, whose winning book I have not read just yet, but am about to, but whose earlier book Girl With Blonde Roots I read last year and thought was very good. This book is also very good.
We have two narrators, though it’s not an even split between. The book is about a 74 Antiguan-English man who is facing down old age, a very unhappy marriage, unhappily impending sobriety, and most importantly the prospect of coming out as a gay man. It’s contemporary London, but we spend a lot of time in his past, and especially through the narrative voice of his wife, the life they both lived in their youth in Antigua.
The novel, first of all, is very funny and clever. The narrative voices are distinct and personable, and the balance between the two characters is not evenly split page count wise, but in terms of compassion and pain, it more or less is. Both characters are products of a deeply homophobic, racist, and misogynistic (well, world) society, and so a lot of the pain and anguish they’ve been put through, while they often blame each other, is more complex within the world of the novel. Walker, our narrator, has been in a longterm relationship with his best-friend, and fellow Londoner with a failed marriage, Morris, and so a lot of the novel is spent on the question of whether these two men will be able to live their remaining years together. But the pain this situation causes their wives, their friends, their children, and so forth is not lost on the narrative, and so while we have a coming-out story in part of the novel, we have a kind of liberation-divorce narrative in the other. And so, our other narrator’s story, peppered with a lot of the same kind of homophobic sentiment both characters have been pickled in all their lives, is also deeply sympathetic because of how the homophobic nature of the society has caused two different people, for very different reasons, an immense amount of pain.
And you should know that if you have Audible Escape, which I recommend, you can listen to this one for free.