Saturday, August 08, 2009

Review: Blue Sky Adam

Blue Sky Adam
By Anthony McDonald

Published by BIGfib

Reviewed by Liam Tullberg


Blue Sky Adam is Anthony McDonald’s long-awaited follow up to 2004’s poignant coming of age tale, Adam, the story of the sixteen year-old title character.

Set six years later, the opening chapters of Blue Sky Adam see the now 22 year-old protagonist named in the will of Georges Pincemin, an elderly gentleman with whom Adam formed a brief and seemingly inconsequential friendship. Understandably, it’s with surprise that Adam discovers he’s been bequeathed Le Grand Moulin de Pressac and Château L’Orangerie vineyard in Gironde, southern France. The news comes at a pivotal point in Adam’s life having recently completed his studies at the Royal Academy of Music and beginning to question the longevity of the sexual relationships he has with friends, Michael and Sean.

It’s in France that Adam’s journey truly begin as it is here that he met his first and only true love, Sylvain Maury, when he was considerably younger. Given Sylvain’s personal demons, the relationship had been tempestuous at best and impossible at worst, ending with a court order for the two never to be in touch again. When Adam’s last letter to Sylvain went unanswered, he reluctantly gave up the hope that he would ever again meet his lover. Until now.

And perhaps things would run smoothly were it not for the appearance of Stéphane, Adam’s handsome neighbour. Stéphane is welcomingly adept in wine production and his gentle nature and kindness prove irresistible to Adam. In contrast to the troubled Sylvain, Stéphane is portrayed almost as a breath of fresh air. That’s not to say he’s without his own complexities, of course, which make his relationship with Adam all the more engaging.

Each of the central characters in Blue Sky Adam is intricate and plausible. The males are clearly the dominant force – though Stéphane’s sister Françoise is well-drawn and given an intriguing edge – and each faces personal conflicts that echo those of Adam’s: who, and what, does he truly want? Though secondary characters, Michael and Sean each develop substantially throughout the narrative with their tentative experiences in relationships highlighting one of the novel’s themes: that sexuality isn’t as black or white as it is often perceived to be, and that this in itself need not be an issue.

Adam is an empathetic central character with the universal need to love and be loved. What’s interesting about a character his age is his maturity and determination to succeed in a field in which he’s little experience. Taking on the daunting task of wine production, he’s reluctant to let any obstacle he faces thwart his achievements and the same can be said for his want of Sylvain.
Another theme that McDonald investigates is the duality of love and lust. Unlike the many narratives in which X loves Y, X loses Y and X eventually gets Y back, Blue Sky Adam explores the concept of being attracted to and loving more than one person –even more than one gender –but the matter is never sensationalised. There are some particularly touching scenes in which Adam, Sylvain and Stéphane attempt to exist together as one, but ultimately Adam must choose between the two. Though it’s interesting to note that this choice is one he feels he has to make, rather than one which he chooses.

The prose in Blue Sky Adam is apposite and evocative and McDonald creates a world in Adam and his friends truly exist. The southern France he creates is beautiful, not least his descriptions of La Grand Moulin, Chateau L’Orangerie and the rural France in which they stand.
Blue Sky Adam is gay fiction at its best and explores contemporary sexuality through characters who live on after the last page is turned.


Liam Tullberg is a Bristol-based author currently working on his novel, From the Darkness, and can be contacted through www.liamtullberg.com

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