07 January 2015

Sweet Mungo by Meriel Brooke

 Sweet Mungo...

'Mungo', An unusual name for an unusual boy. Growing up in England, at a time when homosexuality was illegal and rarely discussed. Mungo's looks are so arresting that sometimes his beauty spells danger. Abused by his father; seduced by a teacher; sodomised by a gang of roughs... Not the best upbringing. But there is hope, close friends like Amy and Tom who are willing to be there for him. Hilary, who starts as an enemy and then becomes a friend and who is maybe destined to be something much more...

Mungo loves music and singing in a choir. He eventually decides to join the theatre, becoming an accomplished actor. But his sexuality remains confused, even the prospect of marriage and parenthood offers him no solace. Will he find himself or is he destined to live a life of lies?

The story of Mungo is perhaps the story of every young child who ever grew up with troubles and nightmares. Or perhaps it’s the story of every young adolescent who ever questioned their sexuality. Or perhaps it’s the story of every man and woman who has ever questioned whether they will find success, their place in the world, and most importantly of all... contentment.

To read Sweet Mungo is to be transported to a world of both harshness and hope, a world of pain and pleasure, and most importantly, a world that allows you to get to know and to care for Sweet Mungo.
I started this book with some trepidations…it’s honestly quite a depressing storyline, but I will say I found this book more interesting than I thought I would.

Mungo is a little boy with an unusual name and a very sad story.  In post WWII Britain, he has an abusive upbringing at the hands of this father, is abused/seduced by a teacher and then gang raped.  All because of his physical beauty, which both a blessing and curse for him.  A blessing because it allows him to follow pursuits such as acting, but a curse because he is often treated as more of an object than a person by those around him.  To top it all off, he is confused about his sexuality in a time when people were not encouraged to live honestly and truthfully as gay or bisexual.  So, where will Mungo’s journey lead him?

The best thing about this book is the writing.  This author has a great style that is easy to read and sweeps you up in the story.  But, for me the character development just wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be.  Mungo is a complicated character and I still didn’t feel by the end of the book that he had reached any kind of resolution with his feelings, which left me as the reader in a bit of a lurch.  If there’s not going to be a sequel, I’m not usually a fan of endings without a resolution.  Also because of this lack of character development I had a very hard time relating to Mungo.  His story was just one disaster after another in my opinion and without feeling invested in him; I found it all to be quite sad and a little bit pointless.

Overall, the writing is good but the characters need more work.  This is one book where, because of some of the content, I was glad to not have explicit sex scenes…so you’re safe there.  I just think at the end of the day perhaps I am not the target audience for this book.  3 stars.


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