[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]
This was a really interesting insight into gay culture in the UK, from the seventies to nowadays: how it shaped itself, the hurdles gay people had to go through, how other people’s views gradually changed...
The book’s chapters follow specific themes, such as TV, AIDS, politics, football or pop music, rather than going in a purely chronological order. This makes for a rather comprehensive view of various areas of British culture, in the light of what being gay more specifically entails. The chapters are also well-segmented, and it’s fairly easy to pick up the book again if for some reason you had to leave it (to go do those pesky things called ‘work’ or ‘sleep’, for instance).
I learnt plenty here: how the introduction of explicitly gay characters in shows like East Enders or Coronation Street was perceived, how their actors were perceived at the time, how it changed with more recent series. Or how specific bands and singers were seen, who became a ‘gay idol’, who remained in the closet, who openly announced it. Or the many people who lost their lives to AIDS—and may not have, if they hadn’t had to remain closeted and more information had been available. Or Clause 28, which I had never heard about until now (not being from the UK probably didn’t help in that regard), and the journey from there to legalising same-sex marriages.
Paul Flynn interviewed quite a few interesting figures within the scope of this book, including Alison (who worked at the Lighthouse, offering end of life comfort to patients dying of AIDS), David Furnish (Elton John’s partner), or football player Robbie Rogers—not being particularly interested in football in general, I admit I somewhat knew that the latter is still a difficult area when it comes to being gay, but I wasn’t sure to which extent.
If anything, I would’ve liked to see more about the AIDS period, and somewhat less about the Kylie Minogue parts, so I guess I’ll have to pick other books for this.
Conclusion: Probably better as an introduction that will give you pointers to what to research in depth, so if you’re already very familiar with the country and period, the book might seem a little simplistic. Otherwise, go ahead.