Saturday 23 July 2022

Beloved Ghost by Fiona Graph

Reviewer's Choice

Fictional drama / LGBTQ
1940s/1950s  - post-WWII

Theo Lawder and Zac Bonneval meet in the army at the outbreak of World War II. They survive the horror of Dunkirk and become lovers. Theo goes to work at Bletchley Park, where he becomes friendly with Alan Turing. After the war he joins the Foreign Office, while Zac works for MI6. They make a good life together. But this is a time when homosexuals are criminalised, and the pressure of being outcasts in society takes a terrible toll. Zac becomes deeply depressed and goes away. Can their love survive society's hatred?

This is the second novel by this author, and I think she will be a writer to watch in the future. It is a love story between two very well drawn male protagonists who lived at a time when homosexual relationships were illegal, and could result in painful, traumatic and dangerous repercussions not only from the law but from relations, friends, workplace colleagues and strangers. Homosexual men were at risk of prosecution, ostracism and severe beatings because of their personal feelings.  The  attitudes, prejudices and consequences of this period of British history are very well expressed, and exposed, by the author.  As a reader I really felt for Theo and Zac in their obvious love for each other and the agonies they suffered and endured because of it.

I was not sure about the cover at first, but as I read I realised its subtle relevance, although I personally would have preferred more of the image and less text on the front, hard to read it at thumbnail size online.

The cameo appearances of real-life people (Alan Turing and Guy Burgess, for instance) bring a sense of heightened reality to the narrative, leading a reader to believe that Theo and Zac did exist, although in a way they did as there were many men, just like these two, trapped in an abusive world of intolerant discrimination. When fiction can be made to feel like reality, then the writer is doing a good job.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

©Anne Holt
 e-version reviewed

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