Barbara's Reviews > The Inner Circle

The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle
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's review
Aug 26, 11

bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read from August 16 to 26, 2011, read count: 1

John Milk is a senior at Indiana University when he enrolls in Dr. Alfred Kinsey's marriage course. The frank, sexual material of the class has a profound effect on the virginal Milk; fascinated and drawn by the charismatic Kinsey, John takes a position as "Prok"'s assistant, sparking a reverent, at times obsessive, relationship that spans seventeen years.

Kinsey's quest to obtain 100,000 sexual histories takes him to all reaches of the continental United States, where John, and subsequently added members of the "inner circle" conduct interviews with individuals from all walks of life. Kinsey's drive to gather indisputable data, to produce a scientific study that is beyond criticism, makes him a tough taskmaster; his expectations of his staff, in terms of loyalty, commitment, attendance, and sexual experience, are relentless and rigid, and his own appetites are seemingly insatiable. But Milk is engrossed, and believes unquestioningly in the value of the "project".

Kinsey's relationship to John is paternal (Milk's biological father died when he was young); benevolent and generous, Kinsey shares with Milk his wisdom, his money, and his wife. But when Milk marries a woman who is less than thrilled with Kinsey's efforts, and starts his own family, he begins to more closely examine some of Prok's views, leading to that crucial moment when father and son must face each other as equals.

The book is well-written, compelling, enjoyable. Never crude or tasteless, it is an exploration of sexual values and love, and a fascinating study of Kinsey and his work.

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