Rent boys, aristocrats, artists and criminals populate this award-winning novel as Jonathan Kemp skilfully interweaves the lives and loves of three very different men across the decades.
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Jack Rose begins his apprenticeship as a rent boy with Alfred Taylor in the 1890s, and discovers a life of pleasure and excess that leads him to new friendships, most notably with the soon-to-be infamous Oscar Wilde. A century later, David tells his own tale of unashamed decadence while waiting to be released from prison, addressing his story to the lover who betrayed him. Where their paths cross, in the politically sensitive 1950s when gay men were the target of police and politicians alike, artist Colin tentatively explores his sexuality as he draws in preparation for his most ambitious painting yet—‘London Triptych’.
Moodily atmospheric and rich with history, London Triptych is a sexy, resplendent portrait of the politics and pleasures of queer life in one of the world’s most fascinating cities.
Jonathan Kemp is also the author of Twentysix and Ghosting.
Erotica for the Big Brain20 December 2016
Jonathan Kemp’s 2010 debut novel comes as close to what I would call a complete work of art as anything I have encountered so far this century. London Triptych
is a at once a poignant and sympathetically observed character study, a compelling work of historical fiction comprising trenchant social critique, and a vivid evocation of the eternally-unfinished, perpetually renewed and renewing city of its title. Here, the stories of three gay men from three different times play out and sometimes overlap; Jack Rose, a young rent boy in the late Victorian period, Colin Read, an artist in the cruelly closeted 1950s, and David, a male prostitute, writing a letter to his lover and betrayer from a prison cell in 1998--a poignant echo of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis
from a century earlier.
Jack’s search for pleasure and profit lead him into the shabby, exuberant demimonde of queer life in 1890s’ London, where he eventually meets an aging Wilde. Lonely and still deeply naïve at fifty-four, Colin lives a severely buttoned-up existence, in constant fear of being found out, only to be coaxed out of his shell by, Gregory (Gore) a beautiful young model. Growing up in the 1980s, David escapes the stifling conformity of small-town life to seek fortune and adventure in the city as a prostitute and porn actor. The three stories are neatly tied together by Gore, who, in the 1950s is acquainted with Jack, a man by then in his seventies. Gore goes on to become one of young David’s clients in the 1990s.)
The stories may be as striking for their similarities as their differences: each of these characters makes the ultimate mistake of falling in love where love is forbidden or simply foolish, inevitably leading to betrayal and desolation. There are no happy endings, but only life continuing for better or for worse—fiction is seldom more real than this.
As readers have come to expect, Kemp’s writing is gorgeous, clear and confident with a rich vein of metaphor, often approaching the poetic, yet never becoming overly effusive or strained. Seldom has a debut novel been so well organized or cleverly thought out with such near-perfect economy of expression, eschewing the inessential so as to evoke a world like no other.
Amy Reads26 November 2010
The three characters and stories showed the differences in the years but also gave voice, masterfully, to those normally silenced. Kemp shows that the way we see the world is not actually necessarily the way it is or the way that others see it. An interesting read that not only uses a unique way to tell a story but does so incredibly well.View source