#BookReview #BlogTour #Ad Becoming Ted by Matt Cain

Matt Cain, Becoming Ted blog tourMy thanks to Joe Thomas at Headline for inviting me to take part in the blog and Instagram tour for Becoming Ted by Matt Cain and for my review copy via NetGalley.

Becoming Ted was published on 19th January 2023 and is available in hardback and as an ebook and audiobook.

Do head over to Instagram to check out the reviews and gorgeous pics posted by the other bloggers taking part.

Becoming TedAbout the Book

Ted Ainsworth has always worked at his family’s ice cream business in the quiet Lancashire town of St Luke’s-on-Sea.

He doesn’t even like ice cream, though he’s never told his parents that. When Ted’s husband suddenly leaves him, the bottom falls out of his world.

But what if this could be an opportunity to put what he wants first? This could be the chance to finally follow his secret dream: something Ted has never told anyone …

Format: eARC (464 pages)                Publisher: Headline Review
Publication date: 19th January 2023 Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Find Becoming Ted on Goodreads

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My Review

It’s not long before the reader learns the nature of Ted’s dream but although the destination may be clear, it’s the journey that Ted goes on to reach it that is at the heart of the book. It’s a journey the author makes us want to accompany Ted on as he battles with the low self-esteem resulting from being dumped, quite out of the blue, by Giles, his partner of twenty years, and the responsibility he feels towards his parents to be part of the family business, famous for its ice cream. It’s a feeling partly born out of gratitude for his parents’ wholehearted acceptance of his sexuality.

I confess Ted’s dream took me into a world I knew little about, not being familar with the TV programme he and his best friend Denise enjoy watching over a glass (or four) of ‘seccy’.  In this respect I was in a similar position to Oskar, a young Polish man, who is on his own personal journey. The author has a real knack for creating memorable characters and I absolutely adored Oskar.  For instance, I loved that, in an effort to improve his English, he learns a new word every day including some peculiar to Lancashire. There’s also a tender moment involving him at the end of the book that provoked the same reaction in me as does that scene at the end of the film, The Railway Children.

Denise has her own experience of toxic relationships but is an instantly enthusiastic supporter of Ted’s dream offering much needed emotional and practical assistance to help him achieve it. Initially I thought Stanley, an older gay man with a love of wearing pink and listening to Barbra Streisand, was a bit of a stereotype but in fact what he tells Ted about his experiences of being gay in the 1950s at a time when homosexuality was illegal acts as a serious reminder of what a long fight it has been to gain acceptance. Oskar’s story also highlights the homophobia that some gay people still face today.

I liked how we see Ted grow in confidence, learn to stand up for himself and reject taking the easy way out when it is offered. He has a dream and this time he’s not going to let anyone stop him achieving it, not even that inner voice that tells him maybe he’s just not good enough. As it turns out, he’s a natural.

The uplifting, joyful message of the book is perhaps summed up by Denise. ‘She catches a tiny glimpse of a future that might just involve happiness, that might just involve love.’

In three words: Tender, funny, heart-warming

Matt CainAbout the Author

Matt Cain is an author, a leading commentator on LGBT+ issues, and a former journalist.

He is currently a presenter for Virgin Radio Pride UK, was Channel 4’s first Culture Editor, Editor-In-Chief of Attitude magazine, and has judged the Costa Prize, the Polari Prize and the South Bank Sky Arts Awards. He won Diversity in Media’s Journalist Of the Year award in 2017 and is an ambassador for Manchester Pride and the Albert Kennedy Trust, plus a patron of LGBT+ History Month. Born in Bury and brought up in Bolton, he now lives in London. (Bio: Publisher author page/Photo: Twitter profile)

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#BookReview #Ad The New Life by Tom Crewe @ChattoBooks

The New LifeAbout the Book

Two Victorian marriages, two dangerous love affairs, one extraordinary partnership . . .

After a lifetime spent navigating his desires, John Addington, a married man, has met Frank, a working-class printer. Meanwhile Henry Ellis’s wife Edith has fallen in love with a woman – who wants Edith all to herself.

When in 1894 John and Henry decide to write a revolutionary book together, intended to challenge convention and the law, they are both caught in relationships stalked by guilt and shame.

Yet they share a vision of a better world, one that will expand possibilities for men and women everywhere. Their daring book threatens to throw John and Henry, and all those around them, into danger.

How far should they go to win personal freedoms? And how high a price are they willing to pay for a new way of living?’

Format: eARC (384 pages)                Publisher: Chatto & Windus
Publication date: 12th January 2023 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find The New Life on Goodreads

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My Review

The ‘New Life’ which John Addington and Henry Ellis are in search of is one of social, personal and sexual freedom where, in particular, homosexuality (referred to as ‘sexual inversion’) is no longer illegal but accepted as a natural variant of human sexuality. They begin writing a book together intended to demonstrate their case through a combination of scientific evidence and personal case studies. This collaboration takes place mostly via correspondence with the two men hardly ever meeting.

Their motivations for writing the book are different. For Henry, it’s more an intellectual pursuit in line with his beliefs in the need for a more open society in which less conventional relationships – like his marriage to Edith, which is unconsummated – can flourish.  For John it’s deeply personal as his life has been one of hiding his homosexual desires behind the facade of a conventional marriage. He feels he has got to the point where he can do that no longer.

What the two men have in common is the existence of a third party in their marriages. John has taken as his lover a young working class man called Frank, eventually installing him in the family home under the guise of him being his secretary. It doesn’t fool anyone, not least John’s wife, Catherine. Henry’s wife, Edith, has a close friend named Angelica with whom she spends much time since Edith and Henry live apart.

Given homosexuality is a criminal offence, both men are taking a great risk in publishing their book. This becomes even greater when, shortly before publication, Oscar Wilde is arrested, tried and convicted of gross indecency with men and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour.  John and Henry are presented with a dilemma. Should they go ahead and publish because they believe in the principles they are espousing or should considerations of safety for themselves and their families prevail?  John is determined to press ahead with publication regardless of the consequences, even if it means the end of his marriage and public disclosure of his homosexuality with everything that might follow from that.

I found Henry quite a tragic figure. Painfully shy, he is touchingly devoted to his wife and believes fervently in the principles of personal freedom. John, on the other hand, although clearly deeply unhappy, seemed to me to be thoroughly self-absorbed. I could understand his desire to be true to himself but he just seemed so oblivious to the impact of his crusade on other people, including Frank, the man he professes to love, who also risks imprisonment if the nature of their relationship is revealed.

More than anything my sympathies were with John’s wife, Catherine. Having silently tolerated her husband’s homosexuality whilst bringing up their three daughters, she has to put up with him bringing his lover into their household and now faces the prospect of the family’s public disgrace. I definitely couldn’t blame her for coming to the conclusion that enough is enough. ‘I am too tired. I have spent so long in fear for you. Fearing with you, or so it once seemed. I have dreaded your disgrace, your being made to suffer – I have ached with the dread of it. It has made me old. But you are not frightened now. You wish to take greater and greater risks. That is your business. You may do it on your own.’

I think the author is particularly good at depicting the erotic charge between John and Frank, and the release John feels at finally being able to express freely his sexual desires. Much of the writing is in keeping with the style of the period in which the book is set but there are occasional flashes of more unrestrained descriptive prose. ‘They walked, fitting in the cracks and gaps that opened between the men and women on the streets. Beneath buildings black as slate, unblemished stone showing like rubbings of chalk. With the traffic, that surged and stalled, slipped and rushed; that strained and rolled and chanted and drummed, that clapped and dashed its rhythms on the road.’

The New Life is an intricate, detailed and thought-provoking exploration of the search for sexual freedom and equality in Victorian Britain.  It’s quite an intense read, a little slow to get going and does contain some sexually explicit scenes (not least the bravura opening chapter) but is clearly the work of a talented author.

My thanks to Chatto & Windus for my review copy via NetGalley.

In three words: Thought-provoking, intense, assured

Tom CreweAbout the Author

Tom Crewe was born in Middlesbrough in 1989. He has a PhD in nineteenth century British history from the University of Cambridge. Since 2015, he has been an editor at the London Review of Books, to which he contributes essays on politics, art, history and fiction.

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