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In his debut novel, Tom Crewe brings 19th century London to life through the story of two men collaborating on a book that defends homosexuality. The New Life documents a time of great social and sexual upheaval, and is a thrilling read! Recommended By Adam P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A brilliant and captivating debut, in the tradition of Alan Hollinghurst and Colm Tóibín, about two marriages, two forbidden love affairs, and the passionate search for social and sexual freedom in late 19th-century London.
In this powerful, visceral novel about love, sex, and the struggle for a better world, two men collaborate on a book in defense of homosexuality, then a crime — risking their old lives in the process.
In the summer of 1894, John Addington and Henry Ellis begin writing a book arguing that what they call "inversion," or homosexuality, is a natural, harmless variation of human sexuality. Though they have never met, John and Henry both live in London with their wives, Catherine and Edith, and in each marriage there is a third party: John has a lover, a working class man named Frank, and Edith spends almost as much time with her friend Angelica as she does with Henry. John and Catherine have three grown daughters and a long, settled marriage, over the course of which Catherine has tried to accept her husband's sexuality and her own role in life; Henry and Edith's marriage is intended to be a revolution in itself, an intellectual partnership that dismantles the traditional understanding of what matrimony means.
Shortly before the book is to be published, Oscar Wilde is arrested. John and Henry must decide whether to go on, risking social ostracism and imprisonment, or to give up the project for their own safety and the safety of the people they love. Is this the right moment to advance their cause? Is publishing bravery or foolishness? And what price is too high to pay for a new way of living?
A richly detailed, insightful, and dramatic debut novel, The New Life is an unforgettable portrait of two men, a city, and a generation discovering the nature and limits of personal freedom as the 20th century comes into view.
"[An] auspicious debut... Crewe uses meticulously researched period details to great effect, and rounds out the narrative with solid characters and tight pacing. Readers will look forward to seeing what this talented author does next." Publishers Weekly
"The New Life is filled with nuance and tenderness, steeped in the atmosphere of late nineteenth century London, a world on the brink of social and sexual change. Tom Crewe's brilliant novel dramatizes the relationship between the visionary and the brave, charting the lives of men and women who inspired not only political progress but an entire new way of living and loving." Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and The Magician
"Electrifying. Tom Crewe's forensic love of the physical puts the body back into history and makes the past a living, changing place." Anne Enright, author of Actress and The Green Road
About the Author
Tom Crewe was born in Middlesbrough in 1989. He has a PhD in 19th-century British history from the University of Cambridge. Since 2015, he has been an editor at the London Review of Books, to which he has contributed more than thirty essays on politics, art, history, and fiction. The New Life is his first novel.