The Abomination - Paul Golding

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The Abomination - Paul Golding

Chronicles the life of Santiago Moore Zamora. Adrift in a world of nameless one-night stands, living in a London of suffocating hedonism, Zamora remem...

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Review of "The Abomination - Paul Golding"

published 26/09/2003 | theediscerning
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"Mothers: This is what public schooling leads to"

Beginning at the beginning with this book review is not really an option, considering the story starts on page one way past the chronological commencement of the story; a story that involves a burgeoning life of homosexuality, complete with dark passions, illicit sex, animosity against those of the non-conforming persuasion, and a resultant growth in the narrator’s devil-may-care attitude; and comes at you with a nicely broad range of styles from the youthfully childish to the brutally in-your-face second person narrative, to the exceedingly-long-sentence style of the first section, that this woefully has tried to emulate.

The writing in this book is on the whole commendable, it must be said. Very rarely has theediscerning churned his way through 515 pages, and come to the conclusion that the level of detail the author set out to give us, and the time he took over each section, is virtually perfect. Hardly ever does a section, event or detail outstay its welcome.

We meet our first-person narrator as he drifts through young middle age and a chain of one-night stands. This is until, by chance, he becomes more than particularly interested in a certain contacts ad. It is unfortunate that we have to succumb to some unlikely coincidences throughout this first section, but we can bear with them.

Our narrator is Santiago Moore Zamora, or James. Born to a lovely Spanish mother and a rather ill-suited English father, and having lived his life formatively on her un-named home island, he is partly used to flamboyantly pronouncing his differences.

The contact, Steve, is nothing more than a rent boy, proclaiming little more than a decent size, etc, but our narrator has much more on his mind than girth. They contact, and arrange business, before Steve ends up alone at a gay club for the interim. Here the writing switches to the second-person narrative, the rarest grammatical form, and rightly so. The sense of revulsion at the scenes in the dungeon area of the club is heightened by the continuing emphasis on “you” doing and seeing what goes on. It will be at times hard to stomach (and biologically, there isn’t much distance in that allusion to what is actually on the page).

Steve and James do meet after this, but the appointment is rather a bodged affair, however the way is open for further business. However, we are now flashing way back to the childhood of Santiago.

Here the exceeding length of the sentences is dropped for a more customary style, one that belatedly drops into childish terminology, but nevertheless is mostly appropriate. The detail in the memories is at times both ridiculously minute, and rather Proustian. It is up to the reader how much he wishes to read into all the details, and to work out how character forming they are. They certainly are always readable, and the urge to skip is very seldom felt. One is reminded of Nicholson Baker, in his close attention, if not end result.

Suffice to say, Santiago is very much in love with his mother, at the expense of his father, but he also has a great affection for Mam’zelle, his very kindly French guardian. However she gets the parental boot in favour of a plain Nanny, which doesn’t appeal. A ring also goes for a Burton (an “esmerald” one, no less, a present from Mam’zelle), and grievances against his parents start to mount.

No more so than when Santiago is packed off to England for schooling (sorry, An Education) at public boarding schools. Both establishments have made his father what he is, what can they do for the young James?

Here, at last, one has to declare the main theme of this book, for the greater sections concern the school days, and in particular, two sexual relationships between James/Santiago and two male teachers. Only once is the word paedophilia mentioned, but the subject is very dominant. Yet James is a clever lad, and even though the narrative is done as the adult man, the boy involved has clear motive, consensus and interest in the relationships.

Whether the reader shares that consensus and interest, and is quite so willing to sit through all the pages, remains to be seen. Theediscerning, however, was really quite interested. Never one for long novels, never one to particularly like books about public school days, and certainly with never an interest in homosexuality or gay fiction, this book actually proved most enjoyable. Allow yourself to succumb to the length of the fiction here, brace yourself if necessary for the sometimes graphic portrayal of homosexual sex, and the volume at hand is actually worth the effort.

The cover blurb is rather disingenuous, if not untrue ~ “two proscribed love affairs set him on a course apart”. Much of the point of the childhood detail, surely, is that the course was set long beforehand, and it had nothing to do with which parent he sided with, either. However, the differences in the two “love affairs”, (the second of which can hardly be called thus anyway), and the events surrounding them at their relevant schools are all shown in the same slow-burning, near-gripping way.

There is very little in this book that we could dismiss with a “seen it before” shrug, much less (hopefully) lived. True, the obligatory Death in Venice references raise a yawn, but then are there for a purpose one cannot guess in the character development of James. The way he swings from a “Mummy’s boy” to a “Daddy’s boy” is also worthy of note.

On the whole this is a particularly brave first book to have published ~ breaching a taboo of a subject in what seems a very understanding way, with no preaching, taking of sides or proselytising. The themes, sexual nature and size of the book all would count against it in commercial terms, but for artistic result, this scores rather well. While never breaching the wall between ever-good and outstanding, The Abomination is much better than the daunting first 50pp and weight would have you believe. It loses a little for the ending, but deserves a strong three and a half stars, and a (guarded) recommendation.


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Comments on this review

  • franproc published 28/10/2003
    Sounds good, not sure I'd understand it though. xxxxx
  • Ophelia published 08/10/2003
    Sounds good. Great review.
  • netstation published 03/10/2003
    Superb review theed. Like you this is not a genre that I would seek out but your op has persuaded me I should read it, if it ever comes around in a bookcrossing type way.....Steve
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Product Information : The Abomination - Paul Golding

Manufacturer's product description

Chronicles the life of Santiago Moore Zamora. Adrift in a world of nameless one-night stands, living in a London of suffocating hedonism, Zamora remembers his early years in Spain and sudden exile to boarding school in England, where two proscribed love affairs set him on a course apart.

Product Details

Author: Paul Golding

Title: The Abomination

Genre: Gay & Lesbian

Type: Fiction

ISBN: 0330392662; 0330392670; 0330483315; 0375410554

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Listed on Ciao since: 26/09/2003