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Fellow Travelers

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  318 ratings  ·  46 reviews
From the highly acclaimed author of Bandbox and Dewey Defeats Truman–a searing new historical novel about the competing claims of faith, love, and politics during the McCarthy era.

Washington, D.C., in the early 1950s: a world of bare-knuckled ideology, hard drinking, and secret dossiers, dominated by such outsized characters as Richard Nixon, Drew Pearson, Perle Mesta, and...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 24th 2007 by Pantheon (first published January 1st 2007)
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Ray
So ostensibly this is a novel about being gay in the 50's in McCarthy-era Washington, D.C. But really, I liked this book so much because it is about the sacrifice of self, and the willingness (or unwillingness)to be vulnerable required by love.

I won't go into a ton of detail on the plot, but at the surface-level it's your standard tale about two gay boys who are unable to realize their love and their relationship due to homophobia and social norms. It's also a part of another gay standard in whi...more
Rhonda
Ew, the 50s: cigarette smoke everywhere, Brylcreem, wet wool, B.O., rooms full of pasty white men in bad suits running the country, the world, our lives--my earliest memories. This deeply humane story is about how it couldn't have been told when it happened, and why, and what all that cost how many people--without ever being even slightly pedantic or giving off that stink art gets on it when it has a political agenda. The politics it depicts get a little murky occasionally because almost too tho...more
Skip
I finished this novel last night. I was up early this morning to take it back to the library.
For some reason, I found this story so unnerving. So sad...Was any character truly happy? (Not that stories have to be full of happy people.)
In short, the McCarthy hearing chapters could have been better edited. It went on too long. And the whole time I was wondering if what I was reading was the true version or the fiction.

But the near-last line is the one that really tingles.
"Tell him I was happy en...more
Susan
I was so looking forward to reading this book about McCarthyism and the lavendar scare in Washington in the 1950's. But the book is cluttered with minor characters and I was not able to sustain reading it for a long period of time, so it was difficult to keep track of what was going on. The Foggy Bottom references and political name-dropping drove me on.
Carolyn
I loved this. A really immersive, atmospheric novel about a gay love affair, set in 1950s Washington against the backdrop of the McCarthy hearings.
Barbara
May 29, 2007 Barbara rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
LOVED this book! Great characters, interesting plot, lots of period detail (maybe a little too much at times...). Couldn't put it down.
Scott
Way too much American political history, which is of marginal interest to me. Almost too well researched I.E. More historical detail than I wanted. It seems to me that Mallon could have replaced most of it with a standard historical reference and just kept the love story.
As for the love story, neither character is really sympathetic.
Hawk not all -- he has a bad case of internalized homophobia, which might have been interesting if presented as a product of time and place, but that connection is...more
Al
I once had a friend, a high school social studies teacher, who confided that he got all his history from historical fiction. I thought it a waste of time, having to suffer through enormous epic sagas when history in the hands of a great historian can be as dynamic as any fiction. However, Thomas Mallon's "Fellow Travelers" has made me rethink my position as maybe being too hastily dismissive. "Fellow Travelers" is historical fiction at its best, weaving the political events of Washington's "pink...more
Kelly
May 25, 2007 Kelly rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: self-loathing homos, people fascinated with the McCarthy Trials
Shelves: abandoned, queer
I AM self-loathing (but not because I like people of the same gender) and I AM fascinated by McCarthyism; however, I did not like this book. I did not finish it, but I nearly did; some more compelling books came into my life and well, Mellon had to go. What can I say? Young boy, who is devoutly Catholic, staunchly anti-Communist, Irish New Yorker, good-looking, and really fond of milk (no comment) meets good-looking, pompous and pretty wholly unlikable and vain government employee (while working...more
Tom
Fellow Travelers takes place in McCarthy era Washington D.C. The protaganist is a young, wet behind-the-ears, fervent catholic and anti-communist young man named Tim, who comes to Washington to follow the conviction of his beliefs. He quickly meets the charismatic, dashing, and more experienced Hawkins who helps Tim get a job. Tim quickly falls in love with Hawkins, whose relationship with Tim is somewhat more usury to say the least. Early 50s D.C. serves primarily as an ironic and pointed backd...more
Russ
Conservative, religious and closeted, Timothy Laughlin is totally obsessed with Hawkins Fuller and Hawk knows it. At times Fuller appears to toy with the younger man's affections, using him and controlling him in a kind of game that ultimately leads to Fuller's own sadness. I found this story both heartbreaking and up-lifting, surely the most difficult combination for an author to pull off.

Set in the early fifties, the tale is full of the subterfuge and lying that gay life required in those bigo...more
Bookmarks Magazine

It's notable that many critics, even those that otherwise praise Fellow Travelers, censure Thomas Mallon for occasionally letting facts impede a good story. As in his past historical novels, including Henry and Clara and Dewey Defeats Truman, the author veils scrupulous research with well-constructed, insightful plots. This time, reviewers feel Mallon stretches to weave period references into this highly personal novel. Otherwise, Mallon, a resident of Washington, D.C., and a member of the Natio

...more
Hillery
Nice historical novel set in 1950s Washington during the McCarthy hearings and the Red Scare. The main characters interact with real historical figures such as Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn. The book focuses on a young male college graduate working on Capitol Hill for a Senator. This young man falls in love with a guy working at the State Department, and the book explores their relationship and how they navigate the witch-hunt environment of the times. I've read two other historical novels by thi...more
Amanda Clay
I SO wanted to love this book, it seems to have everything I like in a story, but I had such a hard time with the characters that I ended up kinda liking it but no more. Mostly it made me want to know more about the author who, from the sound of the afterword, is himself gay. I wonder with whom he identifies, and with whom the reader is supposed to identify: the arrogant, manipulative user, or the poor schlub (sp?) who falls for him and then decides that the best plan for his life is to allow hi...more
Deb
Thomas Mallon writes historical fiction with an emphasis on American political history. His latest is set in Washington during the McCarthy era, and concerns the relationship between Hawkins Fuller, a waspy State Department official and Timothy Laughlin, a conservative, devoutly Catholic aide to a Republican senator. Homosexuality being considered as much a "security risk" as communism, both men were of course closeted, but Washington was a town of open secrets and politics was a game of "who ha...more
Ann
Jun 25, 2008 Ann rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 1950's history buffs, Joe McCarthy haters
Recommended to Ann by: Judy, I think
Well researched novel set in Washington, D.C. against the background of the rise and fall of McCarthy.

I'm mixed about this. While I much enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book, by the end, I got tired of the detail about politics. Yeah, this is ME I'm talking about - tired of politics!

I felt some of this got in the way of the story, and that much of the detail about who was in/who was out/who liked or hated whom also detracted from the character development.

I didn't shed a tear at the end, wh...more
Eric Smith
I really enjoyed this book, couldn't put it down and would give it five stars except for one problem: history. If you don't know much about American history in the 1950's and the important people of that time, then this book will be a constant trip to Wikipedia and a bore. That said, the plot is fascinating: two closeted gay men in the State Department, one fresh our of college and the other a mature adult (32), and the tortured experience they have during the McCarthy era. If you know some abou...more
Cliff
Could not finish this book. I'm fascinated by the blacklisting that happened in the 1950s. This book just shows a glimmer.

Story of a page during the McCarthy era in Washington. Also features notables that were prominent during the proceedings-McCarthy, Kennedy and Roy Cohn (who was also a major character in Angels In America).

The proceedings is a backdrop to the one sided relationship between the young, innocent page and a selfish high official within the federal government.

Story reminds me o...more
Mike Adams
Fascinating story of gay goverment guys in the McCarthy era.
Scott
A good book about an interesting time period for US history. The novel talkes place during the McCarthy era and involves the coming of age of a young man who works on Capitol Hill.

This young man becomes involve with high power worker in Congress, Hawkins Fuller. They have to be careful of their affair due to the witch hunt on capitol hill for both gays and communists.

The history is a great addition to the plot, because there are times that you want to slep Tim, the main character. Ah, but youthf...more
Laura
Ugh...this book was a chore to read. Had I not had it passed to me by a friend, I wouldn't have forced myself to finish it. McCarthy-era DC as a setting could have made for an awesome book about a man realizing he is gay and having to hide that. Instead, this novel was hard to follow if you didn't have a strong grasp of U.S. history and read almost like a trashy romance novel in parts. The only good thing that came of my reading this book was a desire to understand 20th century U.S. history bett...more
Clifford
Mallon's latest novel is an engaging love story that is set in the '50s but has implications into the '90s and beyond. It isn't truly literary--the language will not be memorable--but its setting of a homosexual affair in the turbulent times of the McCarthy era is fascinating. How did some survive and others did not? It's not going to appeal to the Christian right, but for the rest of us its themes of forbidden love and idealogical zeal will give us something to think about.
Timothy Wang
The author dropped the names of so many senators and congressmen that had faded into obscurity, that often had me type into Wikipedia, at first. Later on, when I realized many of those "historical" characters don't really play that big of a role or I don't care about them, I stopped my look ups. Despite all that, I find the book surprisingly engaging, I can't stop reading it. The prose is enviably elegant, the setting fully realized, and the story very sad.
Mark
If you are a reader that needs a lot of plot to hold your interest, this book would probably not be a good choice for you. The characters are what drives this story, though the backdrop of the McCarthy-Army hearings provides an environment that leads to certain character action and attitudes. What it really boils down to, though, is relationships, and there are many parallels provided for you to look at, and the difference between love and need.
Don
I've read a number of Mallon's prior historical novels. This is similar in nature, in that the story of one or more ordinary people takes place with the backdrop of historical events in America, in this case Washington, D.C. during the McCarthy era.

As with his other books, this one is well written and the characters draw you in. And yet, I find that a year or two later, I can't really remember anything about his novels.
Gregory
I usually don't enjoy historical fiction but Mallon's characters are fleshed out and breathing. The numerous details surrounding the McCarthy hearings occasionally get tiresome, but the thwarted romance of Timothy and Hawkins is almost as tragic and moving as Annie Proulx's Jack and Ennis. Anyone fascinated by McCarthy or DC in the late 50s and early 60s will find this an interesting read.
Stewart
Gay DC bureaucrats forced to hide their love during the McCarthy-era 1950s. What exciting possibilities for a novel, right? Unfortunately, this novel underwhelms its premise. The book is a solid articulation of the sexual politics in play during that time, but is too dry in tone to get readers truly invested in their ramifications for our two protagonists.
Chris
This book was a tough read for me. I thought it was well researched, but that's the problem. The author provided so much arcane political information that I could not really focus on the plot or create much passion for the characters. The story held a great premise but in the end, it was too dry and too dense for me to recommend it to friends.
Luke Hogan
Really didn't like this one. I read it because I have always been interested in McCarthy-ism, and thought this would be a good way to learn. But anyone who doesn't already know loads about the McCarthy hearings and the key political figures of the time will be really lost for 50 percent of the book.
Scott
Mallon's ability to capture an era is extraordinary. I felt like I was a member of the world he describes, even though I was not yet born. His characters, both fictional and non, populate some of the most complete universes in modern fiction.
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Thomas Mallon is a novelist, critic and director of the creative writing program at The George Washington University.

He attended Brown University as an undergraduate and earned a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. from Harvard. He received the Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in 1994 and won a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1987. Mallon taught English at Vassar College from 1979-1991.

Mallon is the author of the...more
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