The New Life

S. & S. Audio. Jan. 2023. 13:34 hrs. ISBN 9781797149257. $23.99. F
Crewe’s evocative debut novel reimagines the lives of John Addington Symonds and Henry Havelock Ellis, who collaborated on Sexual Inversion, the first medical textbook about homosexuality, published in 1897. Wealthy author Addington is a closeted married man who gives in to his desires at the age of 49 and begins an affair with a younger man. Henry Ellis, a physician, psychologist, and social reformer, lives in an open, unconsummated marriage with his lesbian wife, Edith. The two men’s collaboration (by mail) is complicated by their apprehensions about the consequences for their families and themselves that might ensue, given the prevailing attitudes of the time (as their book is about to be published, Oscar Wilde goes on trial for “gross indecency”). Rich in historical details, lyrical writing, and sensuality, the book is given a sublime narration by actor Freddie Fox, whose delivery is attuned to the period.
VERDICT An engrossing work of historical literary fiction that is memorable and thought-provoking. Recommended for fans of Bethan Roberts’s My Policeman and Edmund White’s Jack Holmes and His Friend.
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