Garth Greenwell’s quiet but urgent style is superb and this, his debut, is stunning in every respect. His novel is a profound dissection of a character caught between desire and morality.
A young American man is working as a teacher in Bulgaria. There he meets and becomes infatuated with a young man named Mitko. Initially the two develop an intense relationship that exists at the axes of shame and desire.
Thereafter follows a period of self reflection which includes recollections shameful, humiliating, and alienating. Greenwell fearlessly confronts the difficulties of a young gay man coming to know himself with a genuineness that is humbling to the reader.
Lately, poet-novelists such as Garth Greenwell are forming the base of my favourite contemporary storytellers. They often bring a lyricism to their storytelling that weaves well with the audio form. Audio seems the perfect format in which to experience these authors. I’m deeply fond of Garth Greenwell’s creation as told by Piter Marek, whose narration is intimate and sincere.
There has been much praise calling Greenwell’s book “The Great Gay Novel”. I believe it stands with E. M. Forster’s “Maurice”, and with the novels of Alan Hollinghurst and David Leavitt. I’m very surprised to see it left off the Man Booker long list for this year; to me it’s definitely one of the highlights of the past year and won’t soon be forgotten.
What Belongs to You • by Garth Greenwell • read by Piter Marek • 6.3 hours • published by Recorded Books • March 14, 2016 • ISBN 9781501905841