2014 promises to be a great year for queer books, says our man between the covers, Stephen Boylan.
The turkey is finished, the tree’s down, there’s only two coffee creams left in the tin of Roses… it’s the perfect time to look ahead to the literary treats that await us in 2014.
The year gets off to a cracking start with the new novel by Christos Tsiolkas, the gay author of international bestseller, The Slap. Set between Australia and Scotland, Barracuda (Atlantic Books, January – pictured) centres on Danny Kelly, a young swimmer from a working-class background thrust into a competitive private school on a sports scholarship. Fully expected to get picked for the 2000 Sydney Olympic team, Danny struggles to cope with the school’s expectations, his deteriorating relationship with his father, and the sexually repressive environment of competitive sport. The pressure and isolation gradually build into violence, which has far-reaching consequences as he tries to build a life with his Scottish partner, Clyde. Barracuda is a gripping thriller, which sees Tsiolkas resist the temptation to follow the huge success of The Slap with more of the same.
Similarly striking out is Emma Donoghue, whose first new novel since the phenomenal Room couldn’t be more different from its predecessor. Inspired by true events and set in 19th century San Francisco, Frog Music (Picador, April) tells the story of burlesque dancer Blanche Beunon trying to solve the murder of a close friend. As a smallpox epidemic rages in the midst of a sweltering summer, Donoghue vividly brings the city and its colourful characters to life and this should prove to be one of the biggest literary treats of the year.
A more familiar and altogether more modern San Franciscan is to be found in the ninth novel in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series. The Days of Anna Madrigal (Doubleday, February) focusses on 28 Barbary Lane’s famous 92-year-old transgender landlady as she sets off on a roadtrip back into her past, bringing her former tenant Brian Hawkins in tow.
Following an excellent year for young LGBT fiction, 2014 continues with Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (Electric Monkey, April), a young adult novel that was longlisted for the National Book Award in September of last year. At the centre of the story are Harry and Craig, two ex-boyfriends who decide to break the Guinness record for the world’s longest continuous kiss. Around them are a number of individual lives that begin to come together as the town becomes increasingly aware of what’s happening in their midst. Movingly narrated by gay men who have already passed away, it’s a timely book that both acknowledges the freedoms that young gay youth have today and the uphill struggles they still face.
A novel that is sure to prove controversial on publication in January is Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin (Phoenix). One of the few books to have an intersex character as its focus, it tells of Max Walker, raised as a boy by his British political family despite being born with both male and female sexual characteristics. Following a brutal attack, the Walker family are forced to deal with the consequences of their choices and what lies ahead for Max as he rapidly approaches adulthood.
Finally, other highlights to look out for in the first half the year include Damon Galgut’s Arctic Summer (Atlantic, March), a fictionalised account of EM Forster’s travels to India in the early part of the 20th century, an April re-issue of Duffy by Dan Kavanagh (aka Julian Barnes), a crime novel originally published in 1980 with a bisexual detective at its core, and in February, Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris (Bloomsbury), the fourth memoir from Edmund White, detailing the fifteen years he spent in Paris in the ’80s and ’90s.