You are being treated, dear reader, because I don’t want to wait until September, when this book is published.
It’s my pleasure to offer my review of The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech.
As a storyteller, with every new book she writes, Louise Beech demonstrates a remarkable ability to reinvent herself. Although she returns to familiar motifs (which I love because I enjoy recognising them), each of her books presents the reader with a new scenario. The Lion Tamer Who Lost took me on a genuinely unexpected and fascinating trajectory. To Zimbabwe (with lions) and into a gay love story with a sadness at its heart that cracked mine.
Ben goes to Africa to realise a childhood dream to work with lions, and finds himself in a situation he could never have imagined. Andrew hides a wish in a box, which when it comes true, rips his world apart. Ben’s and Andrew’s paths keep crossing, and it may or may not having something to do with fate.
Gay men and their love affairs are rarely my go-to story of choice. But it is impossible not to be affected by Ben and Andrew’s relationship. By the authenticity and utter poignancy of it. By their responses to a tragedy that unfolds and over which they have little control. The characters are so well drawn, the relationship so sensitively observed, I was reminded of Patrick Gale’s A Place Called Winter. (I adore Gale because his male, gay characters are always relatable.) And that’s the trick, Beech has pulled off. A love story which resonates regardless of our (my) assumed preferences.
Which only goes to show.
‘Be careful who you love’ reads one of the straplines on the cover of the book. Be careful what you read: I turned the cover and fell headlong into a wonderful surprise. Because nothing about this story disappoints. The African setting, the excellent writing, and above all, the immaculate storytelling. It’s a cleverly constructed book too. I loved the chapter headings which give us a glimpse of the story within the story.
Another triumph. A beautifully crafted book which will do a great deal to further an understanding of gay relationships. From a writer coming into her power.
With huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at #OrendaPress for sending me a proof copy.
You can pre-order the book here.