Book 21: What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

Mid-way through Garth Greenwell’s debut novel comes a single paragraph that lasts for 40 pages.

Ordinarily, this kind of roadblock would slow my progress to a crawl. I like regular chapter breaks and the duelling rhythm of description and dialogue and the way the white space of a page helps you breathe.

But evidently Greenwell isn’t interested in making your reading experience pleasant or easy or breezy. With What Belongs to You he has crafted an uncomfortably – even cloyingly – intimate novel that will test your endurance despite clocking in at fewer than 200 pages.

It’s lucky then that Greenwell is such an excellent writer. Without his incisive prose, this novel – told from the perspective of an American academic in Bulgaria who falls in love with a male prostitute he meets in a public bathroom – would be a bit of a slog. But he’s so good I found myself powering through even that epic paragraph.

While Greenwell doesn’t quite stick the ending this is a powerful book, which is being heralded as a major moment in gay literature.

Next: Something a little older

Author: adamgartrell

Political journalist drowning in books

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