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A Boy's Own Story
Edmund White
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A Boy's Own Story (The Edmund Trilogy #1)

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  4,537 ratings  ·  177 reviews
Originally published in 1982 as the first of Edmund White's trilogy of autobiographical novels, A Boy's Own Story became an instant classic for its pioneering portrayal of homosexuality. The book's unnamed narrator, growing up during the 1950s, is beset by aloof parents, a cruel sister, and relentless mocking from his peers, compelling him to seek out works of art and lite ...more
Published 2008 (first published 1982)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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mark monday
Edmund White portrays his younger life in a narcotic and poetic style. not exactly the most flattering self-portrait... the protagonist's travails are emotionally affecting yet he remains creepily distanced from the events and people in his own life - in particular from his equally creepy, distant, self-absorbed father. the apple does not fall far from the tree, i suppose. overall, the language is some of the most beautiful, in my experience, of all of gay fiction - rivaling even Giovanni's Room ...more
Santino Hassell
This is a hard book to rate, but I would give it a 3.5.

It's said to be partly autobiographical and it does read like a memoir. However, the story is not linear and at times the timeline is confusing. Progressions of events are broken up by anecdotes that are sometimes told through narrative but are other times written out scene-by-scene. The digressions are sometimes interesting but often felt unnecessary or disconnected from the main character's adolescent journey.

Despite those criticisms, the
A Boy's Own Story is about a young boy's coming of age and his coming out in the 1950s. It is told in a very sensitive voice and the language used is very beautiful. At the beginning of the book there is a very explicit sex scene. I was quite surprised at that because I had never expected that. I've read a lot of books by John Irving who especially in his later work uses a lot of sex scenes as well but never anything like that.
I always enjoy reading coming of age stories including the ones set a
There's a kind of bittersweet loneliness/excitement at sexual awakening that most gays will intrinsically understand and that White always manages to caputure so perfectly. Somehow, he romances the unromantic, charming us with images of cruising in parks and getting STD's.
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 07, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 1001-core, gay-lit
A book about a gay boy in the US during the 50's. This coming-of-age story is peppered with lyrical prose and said to be an instant hit when it was first published in 1982. Considering that the setting of the story is in the heartland of the conservative US and it was in the 50's (before the rock n roll era), the difficulties that the author of this semi-autobiographical novel went through to fight for his desire to be loved (by men including his father) are something worth knowing. As the blurb ...more
The last of White's novels that I picked up, and to be honest I wasn't expecting any surprises. Was I stupid! I cringe when I hear this book praised as if it were the first and best thing White ever wrote...but it is very good. After the fervid manner of Nocturnes for the King of Naples (still my favorite of his books) White took to heart Isherwood's advice to write more plainly. The style he achieves in this book is a marvel. A formal chasteness that doesn't trammel lyricism, a clarity that doe ...more
This wasn’t what I expected to find when I picked this book. I expected a story based on a real life experience…what it turned out to be was a collection of anecdotes from a life, tied together loosely through a vaguely chronological perspective and a bunch of generously worded descriptions of people, emotions and locations.

The narrative is personal and from the foreword we learn that it is indeed an autobiographical story. The author also lets us know that he was an addict while he wrote this
Shelter Somerset
To be sixteen again, curled up on a bed devouring a novel in one afternoon! Of course, in 1982--the year ABOS was published--few gay-themed novels were readily available. I was lucky to live in an area with a public library that stocked the book. The 1980s: the apex of gay fiction (written by gay men for gay men). A celebration of the American spirit, with a homoerotic twist. The essence of individuality. Man versus society. American authors fed us the antihero (from surname-less Ishmael to drop ...more
An account of growing up queer when growing up queer wasn't as mainstream as it is today. I think will appeal almost universally to a gay audience, but also to anyone who has felt different or like an outsider. It also deals with some interesting father-son issues.
3.5 Stars - Really, GR, work on the half stars NOW. They are necessary.

It took me more than I expected to finish this book. To be fairly honest I struggled a bit with it, and I'm not entirely sure that I can pinpoint the why of that.

This is a coming of age story that takes place in the 50's. It seems rather autobiographical, but the timeline is kind of messy so it made it a bit difficult for me to follow it up. I mean, rather than a plotted story that had a defined beginning/ending, this was a
Prima parte di una tetralogia autobiografica, questa storia di un giovane americano si distingue per la sua accecante bellezza in un panorama ricco di storie simili.
Il racconto scordinato, non progressivo cronologicamente, con salti improvvisi avanti e indietro nel tempo, scardina di fatto la classica struttura del bildungsroman, liberandolo dalle grinfie del genere e permettendogli di librarsi in volo. I pochi, ma sostanziosi capitoli, sono quasi delle storie indipendenti, che mostrano lo stess
I don't know what the deal was. I just couldn't get into it. I really liked The Beautiful Room is Empty. This one seemed more fragmented. I started getting into the second half, when he went off to boarding school. That was when the pace started to pick up.

I didn't care much for his relationship with his father, though it played a role later in his life. It was kind of interesting that he fantasized about being his father's lover, not unlike Allen Ginsberg. I haven't heard much about a homosexu
I’ve been eager to acquire this book for some time now and although I didn’t enjoy it nearly half as much as I thought I would, I’m still pleased I finally managed to read it. Here we go:

A Boy’s Own Story features a nameless protagonist living in America and struggling to discern his own identity through an intangible web of pain, loneliness, and homophobia. After a somewhat innocent commingling with a younger boy, purely for experimental (read: pleasurable) purposes, he begins to realise his fe
Edmund White is the type of writer who freely uses words like “uxorious” in his novels without batting an eyelash. Thus it’s small wonder it was such a chore for me to plod through this book back as a young twentysomething - my little punkass simply wasn’t ready for such writerly erudition and I henceforth banned Mr. White to the shameful rank of Privileged Irrelevant Old Gay White Male Writer (PIOGWMW), basically the literary equivalent of a Sweater Queen to my judgmental young mind. But that’s ...more
This book starts out well, giving an interesting evokation of a gay man's youth in the Midwest, small town America, but when the main character enters boarding school, it veers off course and I lost interest. In the end, White's story supposedly autobiographical comes off as a bit difficult to believe, as though halfway into the composition he decided his goal was not to write a realist rendering of his life, but to shock and be sensationalist. Perhaps in the time it was written, there was some ...more
Inderjit Sanghera

‘A Boy’s Own Story’ is an autobiographical depiction of Edmund White’s childhood. White’s lyrical and flowery language and his dream like and surreal style and forthright depictions of homosexuality bring to mind the French writers Marcel Proust and Jean Genet-like Genet, White is fascinated by macho, masculine men and the femininity beneath their macho veneer. It is also an exploration of a sensitive, literary adult coming to terms with his homosexuality in a world and era in which homosexualit
Jean-Paul Walshaw-Sauter
Edmund White's „A Boy's Own Story“: The profound voice in this novel penetrates deep into the soul in warm and sensual waves. It's passionate lyricism is mesmerizing. Whether homosexual or heterosexual, one cannot not be touched be the insight, unparalleled honesty and originality of this fiction.
Sep 14, 2013 julio marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
David Gee
First published in 1983, the opening volume of Edmund White's three-part autobiographical novel sequence made its way onto my re-reading list after an article in Polari, the gay online magazine. This novel in the form of a memoir deals with the 1950s boyhood of his unnamed protagonist, watching his parent' marriage dissolve, moving from the country to the city with his mother and sister, beginning to discover a love of books and realizing that he is gay. The narrator is a hopeless romantic: afte ...more
Mike Mills
A collection of anecdotes and vignettes strung together to tell a story of a boy growing up gay in 1950's Midwest, small town America. While it started off great, with stories of his home life, especially his relationship with his father. But by the time he got to boarding school, the narrative becomes very convoluted and disconnected at times. We are suddenly introduced to numerous tragic and off-beat characters in a short amount of time. These characters, whether positive or negative influence ...more
Sep 04, 2007 Haengbok92 rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who grew up to the beat of their own drummers
This book is chock-full of beautiful prose and a cast of varied and unique characters that cling to you after the pages are closed. It's a window into the life of a young homosexual boy growing up in the fifties, his relationships with his parents, friends, and other mentors--both positive and negative--in his life. I think there is a lot to relate to here, whether you are gay, straight, or bi. Some sections definitely made me laugh out loud, others raised by eyebrows to my hairline.

At the same
If he wasn't writing about gay men, he would be as famous as any major modern author. From what I've read of the modern canon, he and Toni Morrison are the best writers. I didn't mind the nonlinear, even random, sequencing of the book. His metaphors and imagery are so stunning and so specific. The book isn't the most emotional, by design I imagine, but you can identify with his passing summations of what the character is feeling at any given moment. White really spells out what it's like, more t ...more
Kane Simmans
A Boy's Own Story is very elegant. The writing is beautiful -- sumptuous, even -- and the narrator/protagonist is very well drawn. It reads less as a novel and, in the same vein as Margaret Laurence's A Bird in the House or Alice Munro's Who Do You Think You Are?, more as a series of interconnected stories, all revolving around a single character. Moving, seemingly at random, through the unnamed narrator's adolescence, we witness many of this young man's formative experiences.

Sexual, spiritual,
This book is often named as a classic gay coming-of-age story. It is well-written and readable, but beyond that I found it utterly depressing. The main character seems to always be looking for love, or at least some emotional connection, but only finds sex (sometimes exploitative) and ultimately, ways to manipulate others with sex. I wanted to care about him, but by the end it was a very unlikeable fellow that I closed the book on.
May 29, 2011 Valerie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Valerie by: Alex
Shelves: gblt-friendly
The anguish this young man feels about his sexuality, both the coming of age and the realization that he is actually a homosexual, is so beautifully written. The author's verbal cleverness makes erotic poetry out of the most mundane features of growing up. Of course, this made me think of all the young men who don't fit in, and feel bullied and desperate as they sense the growing gulf between themselves and their age-mates.
I enjoyed this quite a bit, and I appreciate how White resisted the impulse to describe coming of age as a linear narrative. Instead he jumps around, and things happen, not necessarily with any particular order, and it feels a lot more genuine. I love his almost flamboyant prose, and I'm very curious to read the next book in his coming of age series.
remember reading this over 15 years ago and being struck by the harshness and lack of empathy on the part of the 'hero'. Picked it up again a couple of days ago and in just looking at random here and there found my opinion hadn't really changed. Cold and manipulative. I do love White's style of writing but not his characters
Uma excelente edição, sendo um dos poucos livros desta editora publicado nos anos 90 do século passado praticamente sem gralhas. Gostei muito da tradução de José Vieira de Lima.
Stephen Brody
This book, I believe, initiated mostly in the land of its origin what was known as the ‘gay novel’, a genre of almost unvarying neurotically-narcissistic, self-pitying or self-aggrandizing ‘confessions’ which hardly do much to further either the cause of noble brotherhood or of literature. Mr White, it has to be said, rises rather above that, or at least he does here. His well-paraded erudition is sometimes something of a liability though there are occasional flashes of half-amused insight when ...more
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Edmund White's novels include Fanny: A Fiction, A Boy's Own Story, The Farewell Symphony, and A Married Man. He is also the author of a biography of Jean Genet, a study of Marcel Proust, The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, and, most recently, his memoir, My Lives. Having lived in Paris for many years, he is now a New Yorker and teaches at Princeton University. He was also a membe ...more
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Other Books in the Series

The Edmund Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Beautiful Room Is Empty
  • The Farewell Symphony

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“For the real movements of a life are gradual, then sudden; they resist becoming anecdotes, they pulse like quasars from long-dead stars to reach the vivid planet of the present, they drift like fog over the ship until the spread sails are merely panels of gray in grayer air and surround becomes object, as in those perceptual tests where figure and ground reverse, the kissing couple in profile turn into the outlines of the mortuary urn that holds their own ashes. Time wears down resolve--then suddenly violence, something irrevocable flashes out of nowhere, there are thrashing fins and roiled, blood-streaked water, death floats up on its side, eyes bulging.” 4 likes
“We were losers who talked a winning game. No wonder honesty came to mean for my sister saying only the most damaging things against herself. If she began by admitting defeat, then something was possible: sincerity, perhaps, or at least the avoidance of appearing ludicrous.” 1 likes
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