Rory's Boys by Alan Clark
|Rory's Boys by Alan Clark|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A debut novel illustrating the importance of community alongside a satirical look at society's attitudes but not in a fusty, boring way. It's warm, funny and big-hearted, showing what it's like to be gay, straight, getting older, being alone, needing to search for personal identity, how certain upbringings can mess life up... It's basically about what it's like to be human.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 300||Date: June 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Rory Blaine, grandson of Lady Sybil Blaine is gay, free, single and loving it, as he tells himself a dozen times a day. He may be middle aged but he's still got it. He's a partner in a successful advertising firm and so, so over having been thrown out of home when he was a teenager; yes, over it – totally and completely. When he hears his grandmother is dying, he decides it's time to remind her (and her considerable wealth) of his existence. The tardy but intensive attention seems to pay off when he's left the ancestral pile. But the stately home wasn't left to him quite in the way that he thought. There are so many strings attached it resembles a marionette: if he wants to keep it he must transform it into the first retirement home for elderly gay gentlemen and he also seems to have acquired his first resident, whether he's wanted or not.
Alan Clark would still be in advertising himself were it not for Sue Townsend, creator of Adrian Mole. This is not a lady who minces words, telling Clark that if he didn't write a novel, his life would be wasted. The result of this admonition is Rory's Boys, a feel-good book of the first order.
The author presents us with a rich cast of delicious divergence, all having one thing in common: they're all incomplete in some way but they don't all realise. Rory shrugs off his need for roots, family and reciprocated love with a playboy lifestyle. Elspeth Wishart, Rory's old school matron (if there's going to be a film, she's definitely Maggie Smith) needs to be able to belong. Feisty young gardener Dolores Potts comes with a score to settle. For Vic D'Orsay (and many of the other residents) the thing they seek is the thing that we take for granted: the safety in which to be themselves. These elderly are a generation for who, in their youth, living their lives normally was a criminal offence. Loving a life partner could lead to prison and, when that law was repealed, a separation from society caused by a cruel stigma which was just as punitive. Vic himself had spent a singing career as the housewives' favourite idol, full of heterosex appeal. It made him a good living but one at odds with his true self.
There are mild sex scenes and references to and descriptions of the gay club scene, but hopefully this shouldn't put anyone off. If you feel uneasy about the choice of subject, the book may still be worth an attempt as you'll be missing out on something special. There are moments of choke-inducing guffawing, for instance a very expensive London Eye party being ruined by a bag of knitting or Rory's cruelly interrupted coitus at a London sex club (not half as risqué as it sounds as it didn't get very far at all). Then, when the laughing stops or it's time for one of Clark's beautifully written moments of poignancy, you realise the underlying connotations and significance. If categorisation would help, it becomes slightly difficult as this is a book that refuses to get into a box. Think Alan Ayckbourn, mixed with a modern PG Wodehouse, seasoned generously with Alan Bennett and add a finely placed dollop of frankness.
Once Rory's Boys was read and over, I came away with a sense of anticipation and gratitude. The anticipation is for Alan Clark's next book and the gratitude is what I owe to his encourager and posterior-kicker. Ms Townsend, thank you very, very much.
I would like to thank the publisher for giving Bookbag a copy of this book for review.
If you've enjoyed this and would like to read something by someone with a similarly wicked (but delicious) sense of humour, we recommend Three Stories by Alan Bennett.
You can read more book reviews or buy Rory's Boys by Alan Clark at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Rory's Boys by Alan Clark at Amazon.com.
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