Originally published in 1982 as the first of Edmund White's trilogy of autobiographical novels, A Boy's Own Story became an instant classic for its pioneering portrayal of homosexuality. The book's unnamed narrator, growing up during the 1950s, is beset by aloof parents, a cruel sister, and relentless mocking from his peers, compelling him to seek out works of art and literature as solace-and to uncover new relationships in the struggle to embrace his own sexuality. Lyrical and poignant, with powerful evocations of shame and yearning, this is an American literary treasure.
Overall, I found the book to be an interesting coming of age story.
By sally tarbox on 3 June 2018
Very readable and vivid account of the author's teens, growing up gay when such things were not discussed. His efforts to date a girl, to tell himself he's just going through a phase, while spending his days yearning for men.
Yet while homosexuality is not openly mentioned, it's going on all around him, from a neighbour's young son to his classmates and teachers... He dabbles in religion and psychoanalysis; he contends with a rather dysunctional broken family.
I thought his descriptions of his insecure mother were fabulous:
-"You're handsome and intelligent."
-"Handsome! With these big nostrils?"
-"Oh, that's just your sister. She's so frustrated she has to pick on you. There's nothing wrong with your nostrils. At least I don't see anything wrong. Of course, I know you too well. If you like, we could consult a nose doctor". A long pause. "Nostrils...Do people generally dwell on them? I mean, do people think about them a lot?" Smal high voice: "Are mine okay?"
A hopeless silence.
White's evocation of adolescence, the efforts to fit in, be popular will strike a note with readers whatever their gender or sexual orientation.
What White does so well is vividly paint these essential background characters such as the father, or his mother and eventually teachers and friends. It is through his interactions and observances of them, that we in turn get to know and understand him.
To me, this is how real life works, and yet is so rarely captured well in novels.
The novel is definitely graphic at times, which for me felt raw and correct for the story being told, but understandably unnerving to some.
I personally saw a lot of myself in the protagonist. His perpetual need to please everyone, his fear and yet attraction to authority figures, and his fluid morphing of character are all traits that I have felt to some degree, and so endeared me to the novel on a personal level.
Certainly this is not every gay man's coming of age, but still a powerful and very honest look at some universal emotions and trials gay men go through while coming to terms with who they are.
Overall a solid novel with a lot of depth and substance. I'm excited to continue on to the rest of the trilogy.