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While England Sleeps by David Leavitt

27 July 2008 — fuzzyhistory

Now a well-to-do has-been writer in his mid-50s, Brian Botsford is haunted by events of the late 1930s when fascism was on the rise in parts of Europe. In 1936, he was 22 years old and living at home, though his parents had died recently. He depended financially on a wealthy interfering aunt.

Lured by the strong pull of Communism amongst the circle of his acquaintances, Botsford attends a gathering where he meets Edward Phelan, a man 2 years younger and from the working class. Edward accompanies Botsford to the apartment where he recently moved.

Their brief sexual encounter leads to a more involved relationship. But whereas Phelan is comfortable with his sexuality, Botsford is not. Eventually his interfering aunt talks him into meeting a woman, who, he convinces himself, he ought to marry.

The woman – Philippa – knows him better than he knows himself. She rejects him. But in the meantime, Phelan discovers the betrayal and flees to Spain into the arms of the Communists.

Botsford’s reminiscences continue as they relate his feelings of sexual confusion and his eventual pursuit of Phelan. Readers gain snippets of insight into the dealings of the Communist Party, attitudes toward homosexuality and the conditions of war – the Spanish Civil War.

But, alas, this is not a novel about war or politics. Rather, it is a coming of age story – a tale about a man, who, by the time he accepts his homosexuality, finds it is too late for the one he loves.

Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of homoerotic sex. Rating: Very good. (Click the image above to purchase the novel from Amazon. Fuzzy History receives a small commission for the referral.)