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My Beautiful Enemy, by Cory Taylor.

June 23, 2014

My Beautiful Enemy, by Cory Taylor.  Melbourne, Victoria: Text Publishing Company, 2013.

AUSTRALIAN WOMEN WRITERS

A compassionate novel about a gay Australian man and his love for a Japanese youth that he met while guarding an internment camp during World War II, a love that haunted him long after the war was over.

Arthur, the narrator of this novel, was a only seventeen when he joined the Australian Army and was sent to be a guard at an isolated Japanese internment camp. While there he met Stanley, a handsome Japanese two years younger than himself. Life at the camp and Stanley’s personality provided little chance for them to spend time with each other, but Arthur quickly became devoted to him. Their relationship was erratic and often left Arthur hurt and confused. At the same time Arthur became involved with a young woman in the Land Army who wanted to marry him. He tried unsuccessfully to settle down and be a good husband, but never viewed her with the passion he retained for Stanley.  Although he lost sight of the young man, he never lost his overpowering love for him.

In many ways, My Beautiful Enemy is a moving coming of age story of a young man trying to come to term with his sexuality. It is also a narrative of war and how it distorts people’s lives. What drew me into the story most was Arthur’s struggle to deal with his sexuality and his ongoing desire for Stanley after the war ended. Stanley became a sustaining dream in Arthur’s rather dull life. In reality, Arthur knew little about Stanley or his life before or after the war, but that did not stop him from being obsessed by him.  Like his own homosexual longings, Stanley was his “beautiful enemy.” He was unattainable but remained capable of bringing Arthur bittersweet joy.

Cory Taylor, who lives in Brisbane, has worked as a film writer and published children’s books. Her husband is Japanese and she has spent time in that country. There is an interesting interview with her, made when she had only begun to write My Beautiful Enemy.

This is an excellent book, not one just for gays and lesbians. We all have dreams about what might have been even though they differ from Arthur’s.

Thanks to Text Publishing Company for providing me with a review copy of this engaging book.  This is the second book of theirs I have read and I am impressed

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