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The New Life: A Novel de Tom Crewe

The New Life: A Novel (original: 2023; edição: 2024)

de Tom Crewe (Autor)

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2636102,569 (3.99)14
In the summer of 1894, two men collaborating on a book in defense of homosexuality, then a crime, must decide whether to continue with their project, risking social ostracism and imprisonment, when Oscar Wilde is arrested shortly before their book is to be published.
Título:The New Life: A Novel
Autores:Tom Crewe (Autor)
Informação:Scribner (2024), 416 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca

Informações da Obra

The New Life de Tom Crewe (2023)

  1. 00
    In Memoriam de Alice Winn (jonathankws)
  2. 00
    After Sappho de Selby Wynn Schwartz (allthegoodbooks)
    allthegoodbooks: For a female point of view of the same themes
  3. 00
    The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo de Taylor Jenkins Reid (allthegoodbooks)
    allthegoodbooks: Not written as well but a book that uses marriage as a plot device to hide sexuality

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Mostrando 1-5 de 6 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
I had been looking forward to this one for a few months but it was .. not great. I love the concept but it could have been handled so much better. The pacing especially threw me off, it feels both bloated and underdeveloped somehow. ( )
  femmedyke | Sep 27, 2023 |
If the last book I read, [I Capture the Castle] by Dodie Smith, opened with one of the best lines I have read, this book opens with one of the most explicit scenes of sex I have read, full of desire and panic, but turns out to be a dream and so very neatly sets the scene for the whole book. Set in the Victorian era, this is a tale of two men and their marriages and the idea of the New Life.

John Addington is married to Catherine with whom he has three children. But this marriage is a smoke screen for Addington's homosexuality, something he has tried to hide and deny until he can do so no more.

Henry Ellis is married to Edith in a marriage which they have both agreed to separate sex and being married. They live separately, and in fact Edith is a lesbian and has affairs with women, ending up living with Angelica. Ellis has fetishes which he finds he is unable to tell anyone about and is a shy man who prefers to be with Edith writing and thinking. They both believe that marriage can mean 'new things'.

Both men have an admiration for the poet Walt Whitman whose poetry suggests that he is gay, although there is debate naowadays about whether that is enough evidence to say so definitively, and through this admiration come to hear about each other. Ellis suggests they write a book together about homosexuality containing case studies and scientific thinking and Addington agrees. Its purpose is to try and change the law that says men can not be with men.

Just before the book is published, Wilde goes to trial and is found guilty and this divides the opinions of Ellis and Addington about what should happen with their book. Ellis feels they shouldn't publish or draw attention to themselves, Addington wants to at any cost and bullies his way to it happening although it costs him dearly. Eventually, a bookseller who sells one of their books is caught and the case is judged to be serious enough to go to trial.

The book is about the moral complexity of such a case. Is it better to change world through private actions, living the life you want but quietly? Or, should there be public acts which force others to think about the situation and to come down on one side or the other?

He (Ellis) wished that he belonged to the common herd, nuzzling in easy ignorance.

Throughout the book there are strands of class, education and type of character all woven together in this impossible moral problem. How do you push for changes in the law? Why shouldn't you let the world know who you are and who you love?

The writing is sublime. Precise and flowing and changing in tempo for Wilde's trial, suggesting the clamour of people wanting to know more.

These were John's days of dread. His months: March to May. When everything secret, hidden, whispered was shouted, pasted printed. When everything unmentionable was warmed in every maudlin, moral mouth. When what was nameless became nothing but names.

Leaders, letters, speeches. Handbills, placards, pictures. Chalkings on walls. Crowds on corners. Jeerers. Jurors. When John felt himself exposed, sprawled on the slimed wreck of his privacy, at the world's mercy. Except it was not his privacy.

Eroticism also runs through the book.

The rain started that night, while he was lying awake in bed, with a sound like sheets being shaken out. It grew in strength until it roared, till he could see in his mind the lances of rain, striking at the street so hard that they splintered and jagged back into the air. After it was finished he lay listening to the glug and gurgle of the drains and gutters, the silence of shocked pavements.

As a book it is a tour de force. ( )
  allthegoodbooks | Sep 11, 2023 |
I will start by saying the reader, Freddie Fox, is amazing. I am so glad I chose to do the audiobook for this. The book is beautifully written, a bit old fashioned in style, but in all the best ways. Often I want to read rather than listen when prose is well crafted, but Fox got me over that.

This piece of historical fiction is sad, engaging, and edifying. I did not know about the 19th century book that was the subject of this novel. Written and published in England "Sexual Inverts" (this was a euphemistic way of referring to those who desired people of the same gender) approached homosexuality from a scientific perspective. I had also not heard of its authors, John Addington Symonds and Henry Havelock Ellis. Ellis was a of a scientific bent, and also had a "perversion" of his own he was working toward explaining through science. Symonds was a man of means, a husband and father, who loved men, and eventually one man. Symonds participated in writing Sexual Inverts in the hope that it would lead to freedom for all homosexuals.

Crewe messed around with the timing a bit here, moving the events later so that in this novel as they were writing the book the trial of Oscar Wilde took place. At that point hatred for homosexuals went from something that was not often spoken of to a regular topic steeped in virulent public hatred. The clips of things actually written in the media at the time are horrifying. A side note -- check out the Wikipedia for John Addington Symonds and click on the links for his children where available. It was a very interesting family.

I don't want to share details because it is hard to even talk about the various relationships at play here (both men were married, Symonds had many children and two characters also have side relationships with other partners) without diminishing the narrative tension. I will say that one of the main characters mentions that he had no expectation of ever being happy, that he sought and clung to serenity, and that broke my heart, especially when I realized that most of the main characters could have said the same. I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is a good deal of graphic sex talk that is precise, descriptive, and honestly a bit icky. There is one scene where Symonds imagines and describes in detail walking across the room and taking his daughter's husband's penis into his mouth, where he imagines how it would feel against his tongue. There are many allusions to cum (Julie and James, I am not referring to cumin here) drying in beards and on bellies and trouser fronts. There are also many non-judgmental allusions to pederasty, and I learned in my Wiki search that one of Symonds' children was a vocal advocate for the joys of having sex with the newly pubescent. While non-judgmental regarding the sexual activities of consenting adults I judge hard when it comes to adults who have sex with children and I have no patience for those who do not judge.

The book is not perfect, there are stretches where it is boring, and points where changes in time and perspective are confusing, but it is very good and shines a light on a historical moment that I knew too little about. ( )
  Narshkite | Jul 30, 2023 |
“No substantial change has ever been managed without risk.”

In his debut novel Tom Crewe presents a deeply moving fictionalised account of two real men and their revolutionary book.

It is 1894, John Addington - a wealthy middle aged married man with three grown daughters and a repressed homosexual - and Henry Ellis - a newly wed whose wife is in love with another woman - decide to write a book together on sexual inversion, more commonly now referred to as homosexuality. Each man has his own personal interest in the book’s subject which is meant as a scientific text and sympathetic exploration of the accounts of male tendencies (female inverts not as interesting as they were not punishable by law - for another book perhaps). Just before they are published the Oscar Wilde case erupts and puts them all at risk.

The first chapter opens with an explicit scene that puts you in no doubt as to the subject of the story. I found the first half of this book, while well written, quite slow as John and Henry navigate their lives and the development of the book through correspondence. It was only after Oscar Wilde is arrested and tried we see the real drama and emotion of the story come into play. Wilde's conviction leads the men (and the women they share their lives with) through the gamut of disbelief, fear, anger, bravery, and naivety as they proceed with the publication and all the difficulties that come from it.

Reading this book as a queer woman was heart-breaking and frustrating. On one hand I felt a kinship to the feelings and emotions of the those who had to live their lives without being fully able to be themselves and the inhumanity of how they were treated but on the other hand I found some - John especially - quite naïve in how he expected the society to treat and react to the book.

Tom Crewe has achieved an amazing task of portraying a time in British history and a community that is often in the shadows and a poignant reminder of how far we have come. ( )
  rosienotrose | Jul 11, 2023 |
Real Rating: 4.75* of five

The Publisher Says: A brilliant and captivating debut, in the tradition of Alan Hollinghurst and Colm Tóibín, about two marriages, two forbidden love affairs, and the passionate search for social and sexual freedom in late 19th-century London.

In this powerful, visceral novel about love, sex, and the struggle for a better world, two men collaborate on a book in defense of homosexuality, then a crime—risking their old lives in the process.

In the summer of 1894, John Addington and Henry Ellis begin writing a book arguing that what they call “inversion,” or homosexuality, is a natural, harmless variation of human sexuality. Though they have never met, John and Henry both live in London with their wives, Catherine and Edith, and in each marriage there is a third party: John has a lover, a working class man named Frank, and Edith spends almost as much time with her friend Angelica as she does with Henry. John and Catherine have three grown daughters and a long, settled marriage, over the course of which Catherine has tried to accept her husband’s sexuality and her own role in life; Henry and Edith’s marriage is intended to be a revolution in itself, an intellectual partnership that dismantles the traditional understanding of what matrimony means.

Shortly before the book is to be published, Oscar Wilde is arrested. John and Henry must decide whether to go on, risking social ostracism and imprisonment, or to give up the project for their own safety and the safety of the people they love. Is this the right moment to advance their cause? Is publishing bravery or foolishness? And what price is too high to pay for a new way of living?

A richly detailed, insightful, and dramatic debut novel, The New Life is an unforgettable portrait of two men, a city, and a generation discovering the nature and limits of personal freedom as the 20th century comes into view.


My Review
: First, read this:
How to define extremity? The greatest extremity? Lust, not as quickened heartbeat or dizzy possibility, but as lagging sickness, a lethargy. Lust as slow poisoning. Lust as a winter coat worn in summer, never to be taken off. Lust as a net, cast wide, flashing silver, impossible to pull in. Lust as a thousand twitching, tightening strings, sensitive to every breeze. Lust as a stinking, secret itch. Lust carried leadenly in the day, dragged to bed. Lust at four in the morning, spent chokingly into a nightshirt. Lust as a liquid mess, dragged into your beard, drying into tendrils, the smell trapped in your nostrils.

In that passage from the very beginning of the book you are clear what this book's greatest strengths...specificity and sensory evocation...are, and what its weakness is: prolixity. (One fewer. Just...one fewer.)

But as a novel, on every story-based measure of characterization, action, world-building (late Victorian London is, in fact, as alien from our world as any spaceship), this first effort from Author Crewe is a wild success. As a salvo notifying us of the arrival of a new vessel, it's head-and-shoulders above most of what I've read in the past few years.

A fictionalization of two real people, who in this book do not meet but do collaborate on an extremely provocative and daring text...Sexual Inversion was its title...that dealt frankly and openly with the shocking idea that homosexual desire is not a perversion but an inversion, an opposite force, to the common-or-garden heterosexual variety of desire. In our rather less interesting realm of blah reality, the two never even corresponded that anyone is aware of. It's to be assumed each had heard of the other, being rather well-known people, but there is not a scintilla of a fact in this story's imagining of the literary work that John and Henry get committed to paper.

Poignantly, Henry Ellis isn't what we'd call gay, but a urophilic heterosexual; it wouldn't send him to jail, like sex with men would John Addington, but it would get him talked about and ostracized. The points of connection between the characters are real, and in Henry's case stem from a sincerely held belief that no one should be shamed for consensual sexual desires. In the 1890s. In LONDON, stuffiest and second-most perverted (Paris, of course, was first) of international brothels. We haven't come to terms with that radical idea yet and it's the third decade of the twenty-first century!

Henry and John's book is cursed, in a sense; it's coming to light at exactly the moment the world's spotlight of attention is glaring on Oscar Wilde's trial for "gross indecency," that most cishet male of crimes. (I mean, the Boer War was grossly indecent, the Native Genocide in the US was grossly indecent, but fucking a man who wants you to do it?) They're all the way through writing it and there's even a publisher willing to publish it. But is this the responsible thing for a family man (John) to do at this juncture? His daughters will likely suffer for the daring act. His wife will most certainly suffer more, and she is one whose suffering has been extraordinarily difficult because, of necessity, it's done in private and John is a scion of privilege as all men are. He isn't unsympathetic to her suffering through their marriage; he feels quite guilty about it; but it does not feel real to him because he is in no way aware of what a woman—any woman at all—confronts and endures by virtue of her sex. Blind, oblivious to his world of mind-bending luxury, he is gobsmacked when his wife demands that he consider her suffering as suffering, even saying to him that she is a receptacle "fitted to receive your waste." That statement, like the concept it arises from, is utterly devastating from any angle you look at it.

So too the Ellises are in some peril if the book comes out. Edith Ellis is a lesbian, and a campaigner for women's rights. Henry is a species of fraud, an expert on sex without a dog in the fight, so to speak, by dint of his virgin's estate. Still, knowledge does not need to be practical or no one would study particle physics. Their, um, unconventional set-up is so by design and not, like the Addingtons' ménage, a jerry-rigged response to reality's exigencies.

The famous Wilde trial, despite its centrality to the events of the novel, appears nowhere on the pages. I was surprised to note this as I finished the read. I'd expected some of it to appear and none except its fact as an occurrence ever did. This, after a moment's contemplation, made me very happy. We're fictionalizing the past any time we read about it, but I think Author Crewe's choice to leave this huge and celebrated event as, more or less, background noise was spot on. This kind of focus, of disciplined intentional limiting of field, isn't common in beginners. It was a delight to find it here.

I did mention that prolixity issue. The novel's about sexuality, and in a time of even greater repression than we are in at present. The sexual events are within the bounds of modern acceptability standards for a novel. They aren't in any unusual configurations for twenty-first century readers of even the most superficial sophistication. They aren't prurient, as in looking on from a remove and deriving judgmental or pleasurable titillation from the acts. But they, like so many things in the novel, are just that three-word clause, that one-too-manyeth ellipsis, too long. As one routinely tutted at for being wordy, I totally empathize. I did find myself thinking, "okay, enough now," more often than I expected to in a book professionally edited.

But, and this is important!, none of that made me feel frustrated or took me away from my focus on the story unfolding. It is a very good story. It speaks, through voices long dead, of the world of today as it was in its borning moments. It is a fine and worthy addition to your To Be Reads if you are at all interested in Victorian sexuality, the price of honesty within relationships, and the incalculable costs in unhappiness and suffering of enforcing conformity. ( )
1 vote richardderus | Jan 4, 2023 |
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Life aroused curiosity . . . It was an epoch of experimentation, with some achievement and some remorse.
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For John and Deborah, my parents and for Angela Baker (1942 - 2013), in fulfilment of a promise
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He was close enough to smell the hairs on the back of the man's neck.
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I believe in the future. In the New Life: in working towards it, even if no one ever sees it.
He wished he belonged to the common herd, nuzzling in easy ignorance.
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In the summer of 1894, two men collaborating on a book in defense of homosexuality, then a crime, must decide whether to continue with their project, risking social ostracism and imprisonment, when Oscar Wilde is arrested shortly before their book is to be published.

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