Nightswimmer - Joseph Olshan

Ladymol's Review

This is one of my favourite books Iíve read so far. And not because it has the strongest plot, nor the best characterisation. I just loved the style and the writing and really lost myself in some very acute observations of human life. Itís a novel about longing and loss, and it really touched me and left me yearning to appreciate what I have but strangely unsatisfied and wanting more. Itís a novel that draws you in with little true-to-life details like two men who have broken up still sharing the dog they bought together. Itís heartbreaking. Nothing is quite as it seems, and, as the story is told by a narrator, you know heís not always seeing things quite right.

Do give this one a go, I highly recommend it as an intelligent and thought-provoking read.


Cerisaye's Review

I loved this book, though itís not an easy read and aspects of the story and its telling left me frustrated and a bit lost.† Set in the shadow of AIDS in early 90s NYC, among gym bunnies, clubbers and the generally self-obsessed and shallow, itís a haunting meditation on obsessive love, loss and longing that charts an emotional minefield to illuminate the shadows of the soul.† Although the story deals with gay men itíd be wrong to call it a gay novel because Olshan deals with painful issues that have nothing to do with sexual preference or gender, that deal with the human heart- young or old, male or female, gay or straight, beautiful or ordinary.

Main character Will says gay men choose partners unwisely because theyíre more comfortable with unhappiness due to a deep down belief they donít deserve anything else.† Well, that applies to anyone suffering from low self-esteem.† Those who donít feel worthy (too ugly, too fat, too old) punish themselves by sabotaging every relationship to make sure theyíre left alone and miserable.

Will Kaplan lost Chad, the love of his life, 10 years before night swimming off the California coast.† To this day he doesnít know if Chad drowned or seized a chance to escape a relationship he no longer wanted.† He just vanished.† Uncertainty fills him with confused feelings, mixing grief with fear of abandonment, an ache of longing thatís an empty sadness.

Now itís the annual Fire Island Morning Party, and Sean Paris, who has had a very traumatic day, meets 35 year old Will. Can two men who have each experienced lost love learn to let go their fear of getting hurt and love again?†

Will is a novelist turned journalist who has just gone through a protracted breakup from Greg, complicated by shared custody of their dog.† Though Greg was unfaithful, really Will had failed him by erecting barriers to intimacy that scuppered the relationship.† Will has never got over losing Chad, marooned in depression and grief Ďfor the him at the centre of meí.†† Chad took a piece of Will that fateful day, leaving him incomplete, so now his life is a search to fix what was broken inside by learning to trust.

I wanted Will to succeed with Sean, because everyone deserves love, but we must watch as he does his best to ruin any chance they have of happiness with jealousy over Seanís ex-lover, and I could never quite overcome my feeling that Greg was the one he should be with, so much less baggage.

The timeline is confusing but eventually it all begins to make sense: the story is told by one character (Will), addressed to another (Sean) as an explanation, and comes full circle.† Thereís a mix of flashback & recollection with whatís happening now.† The flashbacks are in immediate present tense, very raw and real.† Itís a complicated story that requires close attention.† If it has a weakness itís an overabundance of plot thatís distracting and overwhelming, yet the power and passion of the story triumphs over its flaws.

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