I should just stop there really as it totally encompasses my thoughts for The Lion Tamer Who Lost, Louise Beech‘s fourth novel. It doesn’t make for an exciting review however so I will endeavour to expand my three lettered summary.
It’s difficult to describe the book without giving too much away (you’re thinking I should have stopped at wow now aren’t you?) but without spoilers, the book skips between present day Africa (not just anywhere in Africa but a LION RESERVE) and Ben’s first meeting with writer Andrew (in a library, love that). We then follow their developing relationship that for some reason leads to Ben’s departure from England and to the LION RESERVE (why the caps? Well how often do you get to type about a LION RESERVE!?)
The book was just so beautifully written. Not just the plot – an intensely beautiful love story with expertly interwoven ‘then’ and ‘now’ sections, but also its descriptions. Africa was magnificent, the sights, smells and sunrises leapt from the pages as powerfully as a lion would do pouncing on its prey. I loved how Andrew’s story was incorporated, almost becoming a story within a story and the supporting cast enriched the plot rather than hindered.
The twists and turns, of which there are a couple, are powerfully devastating and tissues at the ready are needed. From memory, I think this is the first book I have read where two gay men are the central characters which I find really surprising. I’ve read quite a few with lesbian protagonists (Sarah Waters books being excellent examples) but how have I not even stumbled upon one with a gay central character before? Beech tackles Ben and Andrew and their relationship perfectly and you would never guess it was written by a heterosexual woman.
If I had one criticism the end was a bit too neat for me but I loved it regardless, it will stay with me for a while (as all good ones do) and I thank Louise for writing such a beautiful book.
Look out for Louise Beech folks and for The Lion Tamer, Eleanor Oliphant might have been the star of the show last year but Ben might just be in 2018.