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The Coming Storm

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  836 ratings  ·  51 reviews
Set against the backdrop of a traditional boys' school in upstate New York, "The Coming Storm" is a delicately and brilliantly rendered tale that reveals the most closely held secrets of the human heart. Russell's award-winning novel is the story of four interlocking lives - Louis Tremper, the headmaster at the Forge School; his wife Claire; Tracey Parker, a 25-year old ga ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by St. Martins Press-3pl (first published 1999)
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Maurice by E.M. ForsterBrokeback Mountain by Annie ProulxThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGiovanni's Room by James BaldwinTales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Best Gay Fiction
83rd out of 1,111 books — 1,408 voters
Middlesex by Jeffrey EugenidesThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerTipping the Velvet by Sarah WatersMaurice by E.M. ForsterTales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Best LGBTQIA literature
68th out of 877 books — 848 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,957)
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mark monday
interesting, rich characterizations conveyed through four perspectives: a young-ish gay teacher; an older, maybe-gay? headmaster; the headmaster's wife, in whom still waters run deep; a student on the cusp of understanding his own identity... all of them complex, sympathetic, frustrating, and oh so real. the atmosphere of impending doom is also intriguing (title tie-in!)

less interesting is the author's constant fetishization of ankle hair and feet - wtf - that grew old very quickly.

at times i
Dec 16, 2012 Kernos rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literary and Gay fiction lovers; it ain't gay chick-lit, girls
Paul Russell gives a literary bent to m/m romance, not only his prose, but his ability to leave judgements up to the reader and to avoid sentimentality. This tale interweaves the lives of 4 flawed characters, characters all nevertheless appealing. The novel can be read simply as a m/m romance and succeeds as such. I saw it more as a modern morality play without any correct answers—just like life (outside those of conservatives who need things to be just so, black and white, biblical). This story ...more
An excellent read around a very complex issue...relationship between a private school teacher and his student. However, love the detailed workings of the peripheral characters and how Russell goes to great lengths to provide insights into their lives and relationships and how they all are eventually connected to the two lead characters.
Much more upbeat than I expected, this is a sensitive but not idealistic portrayal of a gay teacher-student relationship - a relationship that clearly breaks the law and moral boundaries too but shows that these things don't have to be as damaging as they often are.

The story focuses on two generations: the young teacher Tracy Parker (that's a man, weirdly for a British reader!) who falls in love with 15-year-old student Noah in the 1990s, and the 60-year-old headmaster who has turned his back o
I am amazed at how topical and incendiary this novel remains 15 years after its publication in 1999. Paul Russell went on to win the Ferro-Grumley Award for The Coming Storm in 2000 (and for a second time in 2012 for The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov, a much different novel that marks the true skill and depth of this remarkable writer).

I was a bit leery about reading this as I kept on thinking of a gay version of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. However, Russell’s classically simple story of a 25-yea
As posted in []:

In *The Coming Storm*, there are 3 things going on:
1. The Forge School headmaster, Louis and his wife, Claire, who teaches feminist literature at a college. They're friends with Reid and Libby. Reid travels around the world and has affairs. Reid retells his encounters to Louis. Meanwhile, Louis wonders why he is still friends with Reid after all these years.

2. Tracy is a vegetarian gay teacher who has recently been hired to teach at the Forge School. Tracy's
This was a good read and perfect for a wintery weekend.

I am not a huge fan of rhythmic alternating point of view though it worked better in this novel than in most. I liked the fact that all four characters whose voices we heard were each queer though in vastly different ways.

The teacher character, Tracy had this whole gay-guy-in-love-with-coming-out-teens/adolescent boy trip. It's been done before, from Edmund White to Dennis Cooper and it speaks to some psychic wound on the part of many gay me
Kate O'Hanlon
I bought this a year ago and abandoned it half way through the first chapter because I really didn't want to read about student/teacher relationships. I picked it up again because there's some other books of Russell's that look interesting but I couldn't let myself buy them unless I'd actually finished the one I already owned.

I don't really know what to say about this book. It's superbly written and I will definitely be reading more from this author in the future. On the other hand, how much do
Tatiana Campos
I can honestly say…once was enough, and I shall not be reading this one again.

It’s in no way ‘bad’ it just wasn’t really my cup of tea. It’s written so that each chapter alternates between the four main characters. First chapter: first character, second chapter: second character, and so on and so forth.

My biggest problem with getting into this book was that I really didn’t connect with two of the main characters. They bored me! And I really didn’t like them. So every time I would come to their c
Let's be honest here, I bought this book because there was a gay theme and I like that sort of thing, so I have a fairly high tolerance for other faults if there be gayness! This I found utterly dreadful though. I abandoned it and that has only happened to me a handful of times in my life. Life is far too short to be reading something like this. I hated all the characters, all of them. They were pretentious and vile and exceedingly morally dodgy; but this wasn't even tempered with superb readabl ...more
A tale of prep-school seduction, in which a young male instructor is led into an affair with a 15-year-old boy student. But there are other sub-plots simmering here, too -- including the sexually repressed headmaster watching the affair develop and feeling a mixture of disgust and envy, and the headmaster's feminist wife who implausibly ends up as everyone's Best Pal as secrets get spilled. I had trouble feeling sympathy for the instructor but could imagine how he might feel tempted.
I have mixed feelings about this one. It was good, but so overly long. I think that it could have easily been cut down. Another thing I wasn't fond of were the four narratives. I think it would have worked best if it had been just Noah's perspective, or perhaps Noah and Tracy. Having Louis and his wife as narrators too slowed down the book. Also none of the characters were particularly likeable. I enjoyed the ending, but it was a lot of work to get there.
Relentless use of parenthetical phrases

The story is about the faculty and students of the Forge School, a prep school for boys in upper New York state. Each chapter is from the point of view of one of the characters, such as the headmaster, the new teacher, the wife of the headmaster, or one of the students. I didn't have any problem with this change in POV, except in chapter 10, where the author seemed to flip-flop between Claire's point of view and then Libby's.

I'm going to be the asshole here
Captivating, beautifully written story that involves the relationships between up state New York boys' prep school head teacher Louis Tremper, his wife Clair, newly employed young teacher Tracy Parker, and 15 year old wayward student Noah Lathrop III. Deeply repressed gay Tremper befriends handsome Tracy, and attempts to share with him his love of opera; Tracy himself develops a close friendship with Claire as confidant. More dangerously Tracy becomes involved with troubled Noah, initially seeki ...more
Joseph Longo
I loved this book. I loved the characters and the situations and the complications. Being a teacher, I could identify with many of the situations. And it captured the atmosphere and characters that inhabit an academic institution. I highly recommend this entertaining and insightful novel.
My heart was in my mouth from the first page to the last. Having been a teacher in a Catholic boys school, I was all too aware of the scenario that unfolds in this story. It's de rigueur to say that any sexual experience involving a teacher and a student is the teacher's fault. And so it is. Not open for discussion is any suggestion that the student might be responsible. That I accept without question. But read this book if you want an insight into just how complex the situation can be. From the ...more
Did you ever read a book where you tell the character not to go there, but they do anyway? That was this book.

My metaphor for a well written book where the author knows how to hook you in and be sympathetic to the characters, well at least some of them. I'm not so keen on being dragged through the muck, but at some point you are invested and want to see how it turns out.

Overall I have mixed feelings.
Jan 16, 2013 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: gay
Written in the 90s when HIV was still a death sentence and it was still a status symbol to have an office high up in the World Trade Center, this is the story of Tracey Parker who takes his first teaching job in an expensive boarding school for difficult boys in New England, and quickly gets a little too close for comfort to one of his underage students. The narrative alternates between four characters: Tracey, Noah the student, the headmaster (closet) and his wife (possibly closet lesbian) and ...more
Tim Farmer
Nov 20, 2014 Tim Farmer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teachers, school administrators, gay men
Recommended to Tim by: former partner
A dark but compelling story of the people in an upstate New York prep school. Everyone has a secret; many of their secrets are intertwined. The student with the most challenges has the most to gain. How many of the secrets in the book are locked in OUR hearts and minds?
I thought I would like this novel because I tend to enjoy stories set in boarding schools. The main character in this one, in particular, I thought I'd connect with because he's an English teacher.

However...whoa. I didn't expect I'd have such a problem with the relationship between the teacher and student (this is fiction after all), but I did. It skeeved me out a lot more than I thought it would, mostly because I started to think that the teacher was not specifically interested in Noah; rather,
Steve Woods
I really enjoyed this book. It is a story about sexula desire! Not desire for anyone in particular, but for an idea about the desired. It traces the path of what happens when the boundaries between the fantasies we weave around desire are fiixed to a person in a context that is less than acceptable to society and how the translation from fantasy to reality has consequences, for the two never match. It adresses in the particular context of a boys school this human drive to force the issue, to att ...more
I liked this even more than The Salt Point, which I thought was fantastic.
Beautifully written but if you read the back of the book you pretty much don't need to read the novel. Nothing new or surprising happens that isn't told to you on the back cover. Russell renders a believable world and the dialogue was life-like.

I wrote the review above a year ago, and have since read about 65 books, and yet The Coming Storm still lingers in my mind. Today I had to edit my review and add an extra star to my rating. The setting and the characters are quite memorable. I highly rec
I could not put this book down once I started reading it.

This is my first time reading Paul Russell, and now I want to read all his books. I think Paul Russell is very brave to take on the subject matter in this book.

This book is about a part of gay life that we have not figured out yet. The parts that are not very easy to understand, and the parts that have yet to gain mainstream acceptance, but still exist and call out for exploration.

This book is an adventure into the familiar and into the
Absolutely brilliant book and author - subtle, nuanced, great character-writing and a wonderful sense of the moral perils of semi-everyday lives. I was clearing out a great many old novels and nearly sold off Russell's works, as I'd forgotten how good they were. Luckily, my local secondhand bookshop owner wasn't interested in gay(ish) literature, so failed to take any of the Russell books I had, so I pulled them out and am amid giving them another reading - all excellent! Date finished is for se ...more
Exquisitely realized novel about the pain of years-long repression, juxtaposed with the pain of allowing yourself a forbidden freedom.

"What I mean is, we say we're all for love, then we hem it in on all sides, we prescribe what's allowed and not allowed, we tax it to death, so to speak. But you know what? And this is the great secret we all fool ourselves into trying not to know: more than anything else, Love loves anarchy. It loves to wreak havoc. It loves to dance atop the ruins."
Jun 05, 2008 Tatiana rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tatiana by: erica
people keep giving me gay-guy-after-young-boy books to read. i'm not sure what that says about me...

i liked this book a lot, mostly for the complete world immersion. it's long, but such are books that sink tentacles into characters' massively complex inner workings. and even with 600 pages of watching hidden emotional struggle i can safely stay i still don't totally understand the characters.

i could have done without noah's atrociously bad stories, though.
On the one hand, this novel leaves you constantly saying, no don't do it. But then also wanting these folks to find their own peace. They're all so troubled, (except maybe for Betsy and Claire.)

The real question is, was Noah better off or not because of his relationship with Tracy?

I'd have to say, yes.
Because it was not one founded on power, but instead, love.

And wasn't that the whole point Claire was trying to get across in her class...?

Malcolm Ewing
Very well-written, despite the fractured, "four narrator" format, which took a bit of getting used to. Also a bit dated already by its setting in the mid-1990s, prior to mobile phones and widespread personal Internet access. It has complex and interesting characters, and refreshingly sympathetic portraits of a young gay teacher and a confused gay student who fall in love, despite the consequences.
Galathea (needs "Kings Rising"- C.P. III - now!)
Beautiful story, beautifully written. Strange story, at times, though. And I couldn't put it down. But if you're looking for a chick's gay lit, this is not the right book for you. Somehow, sometimes it reminded me of a novella I read when I was young(er) and that stuck with me all these years: "Confusion", by Stefan Zweig.

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Paul Russell received his doctorate from Cornell in 1983 for a dissertation on the novelist Vladimir Nabokov and is currently a Professor in the English Department at Vassar College.

His fourth novel, The Coming Storm won the 2000 Ferro-Grumley Award for Gay Male Fiction.

His short fiction has appeared in literary
More about Paul Russell...
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“Just because you pretend the universe doesn't have teeth doesn't mean you won't get eaten in the end.” 7 likes
“I’ll put it to you simply: love is the enemy. That’s my conclusion. We should all live in our little monk cells and never venture out ...” 3 likes
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