Genre: GLBT, Irish Fiction
Narrative Style: First Person Narrative, Chronological
Synopsis: As if it wasn’t hard enough growing up Catholic in Northern Island in the 1970s, Gabriel starts to suspect that he isn’t like other boys. Add to this the pressure of getting into grammar school, a turbulent relationship with his father and the strange secret of Uncle Brendan’s leaving and you have a compelling tale of teenage confusions.
This grabbed me from the very start. Gabriel was a funny and honest narrator who details his life from his first day of school until he is ready for university. From the very first, Gabriel is sensitive and doesn’t like many of the things it is considered normal for boys to like. At school he is bullied, at home his father is always on his back about not being masculine enough. Added to this is the constant presence of the Catholic church and his mother’s horror of what the neighbours might say and you get some impression of the pressure that Gabriel is under.
The conflict between Gabriel’s growing knowledge of his homosexuality and the ideas of the Catholic church is sensitively handled. Gabriel tries desperately to pray his way out of homosexuality and his strategies for dealing with his feelings are both funny and painfully touching.
When Uncle Brendan’s secret was revealed I was surprised although the clues had actually been obvious enough. It was pleasing to have not spotted them though and to be surprised for once. The ending itself was ambiguous in as much that Gabriel tells his mother his homosexual phase is over. However, the reader suspects that this is wishful thinking on his part.
My only complaint about this book is that it had to end. I could happily have gone on reading about Gabriel’s university years. Very enjoyable.