One Perfect Summer - Livres du Mois
For the return of Livres du Mois we begin with the theme of One Perfect Summer, a collection of books that tell the stories of gay men before and after the first world war, their experiences of happiness in one glorious summer before the shadow of war crept in, the judgment of society forced their hand or in the rare case of David Blaize, the sun never stopped shining.
"If only it could be like this always - always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper."
"Brideshead Revisited is Evelyn Waugh's stunning novel of duty and desire set amongst the decadent, faded glory of the English aristocracy in the run-up to the Second World War.
The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, Brideshead Revisited tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly disappearing world of privilege they inhabit." Enchanted first by Sebastian Flyte at Oxford, the moments that Charles and Sebastian spent during that time together has captured many imaginations since its first publication in 1945, "provoking an intense and pleasurable nostalgia for that none of its audiences has had."
The book was made into a television series in 1981, staring Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews as Sebastian Flyte. "Brideshead Revisited is television's greatest literary adaptation, bar none. It's utterly faithful to Evelyn Waugh's novel yet it's somehow more than that, too." The first two episodes of the series, and part 1 of the book, is my happy place, where I go and feel that nostalgia for that perfect summer that wasn't even mine.
David of Kings
E. F. Benson
"Originally published in 1924, E F Benson's David of King's, the sequel to the classic David Blaize, is set during the six foot and blond David's three years at Cambridge University. Here the enchanting hero, a seductive combination of aesthete and athlete, continues his intense and clearly homoerotic relationship with the three year older Frank Maddox. Here, too, David mixes with the sporting, artistic and academic fraternities - loved and admired by all. Like David Blaize, David of King's is strongly autobiographical and includes sharp portraits from life of such notorious characters as Oscar Browning (disguised as 'Alfred Gepp') - an Eton schoolmaster, dismissed because of a scandal, who found a safe haven at King's College, Cambridge, and Mr. Crowfoot--based on Mr. J.E. Nixon."
"David of King's is, above all, a "jolly enjoyable" read. Benson tells an absorbing story and he draws the reader into the cultural and social world of Blaize at King's College and more generally of Cambridge University. His stories of Blaize's encounters with colourful and eccentric dons are absolute gems of affectionate humour and should not be missed."
E. M. Forster
Maurice is a novel by E. M. Forster. A tale of homosexual love in early 20th-century England, it follows Maurice Hall from his schooldays through university and beyond. It was written in 1913–1914 but was not published until 1971.
This book is different from the rest in the list as it is the only one with a happy ending. Forster wrote: “A happy ending was imperative. I shouldn't have bothered to write otherwise. I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows, and in this sense, Maurice and Alec still roam the greenwood.”
Maurice was adapted into a film in 1987 directed by James Ivory, staring James Wilby, Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves. The film is loyal to the book but in the final edit, the most important scene was cut. Luckily it was put into the extended version, both versions are available to watch on YouTube. This has become one of my favourite books, and owning a copy with the front cover image of Teddy by Adolph de Meyer, makes it all the more special.
"The Temple is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Stephen Spender, sometimes labelled a bildungsroman because of its explorations of youth and first love. It was written after Spender spent his summer vacation in Germany in 1929 and recounts his experiences there. It was not completed until the early 1930s. Because of its frank depictions of homosexuality, it was not published in the United Kingdom until 1988.
During the holiday in 1929, the poet on vacation in Hamburg, travels down the Rhine with two companions, on which The Temple is based. The two companions Spender formed friendships with were Herbert List (photographer) and Ernst Robert Curtius (German critic), the latter of which introduced him to and cultivated his passion for the poets Rilke, Hölderlin, Schiller, and Goethe."
"We see his response to the bronzed young Germans – the children of the sun – their friendships, parties, sexuality, naturism (especially their cult of the naked body), and all the gauche hedonism that was soon to vanish under the Nazis. Clearly The Temple is a novel of historical and literary importance,. But it is, as well, an entertaining and moving story of a young man's awakening."
Another Country is a play written by English playwright Julian Mitchell. It premiered on 5 November 1981 at the Greenwich Theatre, London.
"Another Country is set in an English public school in the early 1930s. The future leaders of the English ruling class are being prepared for their roles in the Establishment. But the two central characters are outsiders: Guy Bennett, coming to terms with homosexuality, and Tommy Judd, a committed Marxist. Judd wants to abolish the whole system of British life, Bennett wants a successful career within it but school, and the system, have traditional ways of dealing with rebels.
In the film adaptation of the Julian Mitchell play, classmates and fellow outcasts Guy Bennett (Rupert Everett) and Tommy Judd (Colin Firth) find comfort in friendship during the 1930s, at an elite British public school where conformity is the norm. Openly gay Bennett must deal with bullying and homophobia amongst a love affair with James Harcourt (Cary Elwes), while Judd struggles to reconcile the expectations of the establishment with his own Marxist beliefs when he is given the opportunity to become head boy.
Another Country is loosely based on the life of the spy and double agent Guy Burgess, Guy Bennett in the film. It explores his homosexuality and exposure to Marxism, while examining the hypocrisy and snobbery of the English public school system."
The Garden God
"Fifteen year old Graham Iddesleigh dreams of a past life, where he frolicked in a garden with a young Greek god. However, his dreams threaten to come to an abrupt end when his father decides to send him away to school. But what is Graham's surprise when he meets a fellow schoolboy, Harold Brocklehurst, who is the very image of the Greek god of his dreams! Graham falls deeply in love with his new friend, and the two boys spend an unforgettable summer together -- until a heartbreaking tragedy occurs, a tragedy that will change Graham's life forever."
"He placed him so that he leaned against the black, smooth rock, and the soft melting lines of the boy's body shone out with an extraordinary beauty from the sombre background. Graham paused for a moment, and stepping back, shaded his eyes with his hand while he gazed fixedly at his work. A faint colour came into his cheeks and he advanced again. Very gently he pulled the brown waving hair over the boy's forehead, and a little lower still, giving to his face a more feminine oval, like that of Leonardo's ‘Bacchus!’ He pulled his head, too, slightly forward, bending it from the shapely neck; and with delicate fingers he half lowered the lids of the dark, clear blue eyes, till the upper lashes, long and curling, cast a shadow on the cheek below; and he parted the lips, ever so softly, till a strange dreamy smile seemed to play upon them. The accuracy of his touch almost startled him, and his colour deepened as the boy's beauty flowed in upon him, filling him with a curious pleasure. He laughed aloud. 'You are just like one of the young gods,' he cried. 'I wonder if you really are one. Perhaps if we stay much longer we shall draw the others down from heaven.'"
I wanted to put together a list of books along the same line, picnics under the elms and secret meetings at the boathouse. If there is a book that you think belongs to this list please do message me about it. I hope you have found new to read today but if not, you may find something else to your tastes in the Compendium's Library.