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Reading Gay Men’s Book Club


Review for

“My Brother and His Brother” Hakan Lindquist

The world of modern gay fiction published in Britain seems to be even more unhealthily dominated by the 'anglosphere ' than literature in general. I first read this book in a translation from the original Swedish into German, and was sufficiently impressed by it to recommend the new English translation to the group when it became availbale. That said, this is not exactly Strindberg or even Henning Mankel, but a simple and rather sweet kind of gay "Romeo and Juliet" transposed to a small town on Sweden's Baltic coats in the period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.

A teenage boy, Jonas is drawn to uncover the secrets behind the life of his elder brother, Paul who had been tragically killed shortly before his own birth. It takes the form of a kind of "detective story" in which a series of clues gradually lead to an unusual teenage love story, which hardly has time to blossom before it ends in a tragic misunderstanding, with two appallingly violent deaths. On the way we meet the family friend, Daniel, mentor in turn to both brothers, who did come across to me rather negatively as a sad, lonely middle aged gay man, a recovering alcoholic with an interest in much younger men that teetered on the edge of the unhealthy.

As the narrator, Paul is curious, tenacious and ingenious, but a tad elusive. While we learn a lot about his feelings for his dead brother, we don't really learn much about him, in fact he comes across more as a vehicle for the author. My other frustration was that while we hear a about external events, from the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia - which affects one of the characters - to the first moon landing, we don't get a very vivid feeling of what it was like to grow up in small town provincial Sweden in the 1960s or 1980s. This would have made the story that much more real and engrossing.

So as with so many gay novels, not without its faults and frustrations, but one with a certain charm, which does introduce you to a beautiful coastline seldom travelled to by gay fiction, so definitely worth the voyage.

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