Book - 2020 | First edition
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"A queer American teacher describes a series of intimate encounters with lovers, friends, and students in and around Sofia, Bulgaria"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780374124588
Branch Call Number: FIC Green
Characteristics: 223 pages ; 22 cm


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Jan 31, 2020

The author returns to the same setting and similar themes as his previous novel, “What Belongs To You” from 2016. An unnamed narrator, an American writer and English teacher living in Bulgaria, describes encounters and relationships in a country trying to become modern and escape the shadow of its Soviet Past. The novel is broken into three parts, three chapters each. Somewhere between a novel and a collection of short stories, the plot in this book is very thin. What connects this novel is the setting and the same first person point of view from the same character in every chapter.

This book is probably not for everyone. There are scenes and entire chapters that describe specific, detailed sexual encounters between men. In addition some of these chapters explore sexual fetish and taboo topics not found often in literary fiction. The center of this triptych describes the relationship between the narrator and R., his Portuguese lover. (All of the characters in the novel are referred to by their first initial only.) I thought this part of the novel was the strongest and most compelling, where each chapter explores a different scene in the relationship at the beginning, middle, and (presumed) end. I loved the middle story “The Frog King” where the narrator and R. take a trip to Italy.

The book is so well written, almost entirely description with little dialogue, but the book never feels stagnate. The pages radiate with an energy of the characters and the setting. Garth Greenwell is a masterful writer. His word choice is evocative, it’s difficult not to read this book with awe for the language, yet the scenes keep it grounded so it’s not just showing off. ★★★★★ • Trade Paperback • Fiction - Literary, Short Stories, LGBT • Published January 14, 2020. • Thank you, Russell at for the Advanced Copy. ◾︎

Jan 19, 2020

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