Emma Morgan’s A Love Story for Bewildered Girls follows the lives of three women in their late-twenties and early thirties: Violet, Annie and Grace. Set in present-day Leeds, the women’s various platonic, familial and romantic relationships unfold and overlap throughout the novel. The book offers a glimpse into each of the protagonists lives during a particular moment in time and allows us to see how each woman is shaped by the events and individuals they encounter.
Violet, Annie and Grace each have a relationship that is
their central focus and while this drives the narrative forward, the novel as a
whole is primarily character-led. The snappy chapters with headings such as ‘this
is Grace and the goodbye’ and ‘this is when Annie goes ballistic’ work as vignettes
that both foreground each women’s distinct perspective and help to add further
texture to each character.
The way in which the characters’ lives intersect or have missed connections is reminiscent of Armstead Maplin’s Tales of the City series. Beyond the three protagonists, a series of distinctive and engaging female characters are peppered throughout the novel, offering titbits of other lives that orbit around the central figures, which is a joy. This subsequently left me wishing I could know even more about Grace’s four sisters or her lover Sam.
Morgan does an excellent job of ensuring that the lesbian
and bisexual sexualities of her characters are acknowledged but do not become a
sensationalised central focus. From the outset Grace is an out-lesbian and who
goes on to navigate a complex relationship with Sam that parallels Annie’s ongoing
challenges with new boyfriend Lawrence. In contrast Violet’s sexuality becomes
more fluid throughout the novel and this is sensitively depicted in a way that
avoids the trope of newly discovered same-sex desire resulting in a personal
A Love Story for Bewildered Girls is a thoughtful yet light and comic read; a series of snapshots which capture a set of memorable characters who are on the precipice of change.
Review by S. J. Mullan You can buy A Love Story for Bewildered Girlshere
It’s here! Today marks the launch of the Booksforqueers.com blog, just in time for Pride month, and we mark this momentous occasion with an interview with Chris Gill, whose new novel The Nowhere is out today.
When the idea for Booksforqueers.com first struck, my main objective was to make finding LGBTQ+ books as effortless as possible. Of course, many book retailers offer an LGBT section, but it’s often difficult to then get granular with the genre.
Lesbian love stories sit next to transgender biographies, with gay outback mysteries thrown in between (okay, maybe I made that last one up). But with BooksforQueers.com, everything is broken down by gender, sexuality – and most importantly – genre too, ultimately making your search for that next queer read a breeze.
That brings me on to my second objective for the website: to build a resource for queer people wanting to find books that represent them, their identity, and their experiences. This is why I have invited Chris Gill, author of the much-anticipated novel The Nowhere, to chat. In short, The Nowhere is a coming-of-age Australian mystery with a gay protagonist (wait – isn’t that a gay outback mystery?)…
Mark: Hi Chris, tell me what inspired you to write The Nowhere.
Chris: Hey Mark. Well, I knew I wanted to write a standalone
coming-of-age novel set somewhere remote where the protagonist is trying to
come to terms with himself. Having moved to Australia by way of London over
five years ago, I’d travelled around some smaller, outback towns that had
inspired me – but decided to push it even further and set it somewhere way out
in the middle of nowhere that I hadn’t even been.
I spent most of my formative years growing up in England (aside from six years
in New Zealand as a child), I could relate to the feeling of isolation felt by
Seb – the book’s protagonist – having grown up in a small country town. I had
to go through the coming-out process in a small town in 2000s, which came with
enough of its own challenges, so I can only imagine how it must have been
having to do the same thing on an outback farm in the 1990s. I could feel the
torment and anguish as I wrote the book.
Mark: So it’s fair to say your own journey of
acceptance when it comes to your sexuality played a big part in the writing of The Nowhere?
Chris: Absolutely. I mean, it would’ve been hard for it not to have in
some shape or form. Don’t get me wrong; Seb’s story is very different to mine.
I was lucky to have a loving, supportive and accepting family and network of
friends around me. Most of the torment came from inside my own head.
Seb’s relationship with his father is testing at the best of times, and with
his only company for the majority of the book being Jake – the captivating
neighbour he grows feelings for – he doesn’t really have an ally. Any queer
person knows the importance of allies when they’re coming up (and ultimately,
Mark: You mention the torment you faced around
your sexuality being in your head. Tell us more about that.
Chris: Well, I think most LGBTQ+ people will have had that light bulb
moment – especially in the era I grew up (things have undoubtedly come a long way,
although not for everyone everywhere). That moment when all the repressing
going on in your head can’t do its job anymore and you’re like – ok, yes.
That’s who I am.
I remember that moment so clearly, laying in my teenage bedroom in the dark. “I’m gay” I said aloud, although it would be a couple more years until I could really say it without hiding behind a veil of bisexuality or simply the need not to be labelled. There were many years of self-loathing and shame that growing up in a straight world had conditioned me to feel. It’s like a lifetime of unravelling and un-learning, in many ways.
Mark: You’re obviously in a much better place
now with your sexuality?
Chris: 100%! Never did I imagine a day where I’d be able to get married
or have kids. I got married to my partner of over nine years earlier this year!
So that was a real moment of imagining putting my arm around my 17-year-old
self and saying “it’s going to be ok. You’re going to be all right!”
not to say there’s not a long way to go with the fight, though. And I’m very
much aware that not everyone has the same freedom as I. As we speak there is a
teenage boy or girl worrying about being disowned if their parents find out
their sexuality. There are religions and parts of the world where being your
authentic self is enough to be imprisoned, or even killed.
come so far, but there’s still a long, long way to go.
Mark: Seb seems to share this same
self-loathing you described feeling as a teenager, and reading him refer to
himself in his own thoughts as ‘fag’ or ‘queer’ (in a derogatory way) is quite
Chris: For sure. It was confronting writing it, and at times I wondered
if it was too much including it in the book, but I had to be true to the times.
And that word, ‘queer’, is such an interesting one, right? How it’s been
reclaimed. I love how it’s meaning is broader than just being gay, too. Like,
you can be gay and feel like a misfit in that community. I think queerness
lends itself to outsiders inside a world of outsiders.
Mark: We wish you the greatest success with The Nowhere and all your future ventures.
Anything in the pipeline?
Chris: Right now my attention is fully on getting The Nowhere under as many noses as possible. I poured so much of
myself into this project, so I don’t take for granted any one person who might
take the time to check it out. Beyond that, much more writing. I’ve got some
ideas kicking around for my next book, so I need to carve some time out to sit
down and get that going. Wish me luck!
The Nowhere is out now via PRNTD Publishing. Order yours here.