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Leading Men

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  40 ratings  ·  22 reviews
"Spectacular... moving, beautifully written, and a bona fide page-turner." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"An extraordinary book." --Lauren Groff, author of Florida

An expansive yet intimate story of desire, artistic ambition, and fidelity, set in the glamorous literary and film circles of 1950s Italy

In July of 1953, at a glittering party thrown by Truman Capote in Por
Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: February 12th 2019 by Viking
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  • Leading Men by Christopher Castellani
    Leading Men
    Release date: Feb 12, 2019
    An expansive yet intimate story of desire, artistic ambition, and fidelity, set in the glamorous literary and film circles of 1950s Italy

    In July of 19

    Format: Print book

    Giveaway ends in: a

    Availability: 100 copies available, 1348 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: Jan 08 - Jan 31, 2019

    Countries available: U.S.

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    Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
    Beginning in 1953 some of the glitterati of the literati are the leading men of this novel. The big names here are Tennessee Williams and the malicious gossip Truman Capote (he makes only a few appearances). The other two leading men are Williams’ partner/assistant/nursemaid the good natured and reliable, Frank Merlo, and the lesser known author John Horne Burns. As he lay dying in 1963, Merlo revisits a tumultuous summer with Williams and his role as bit player standing in the massive shadow of ...more
    Crystal King
    Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Castellani's first three novels captivated me thoroughly but Leading Men took all my emotions and ratcheted them up a level. I can't stop thinking about this book. I fell in love with Frank Merlo and Anja Bloom, with Tennesee William's Italian jet-setting ways, with the backdrop of 1950s Italy, with all of it. The book is beautifully written, so much so that now that I have read it to feel wrapped up in the story, I intend to read it again for the craft of it. I want to understand how he turns t ...more
    Whitney Scharer
    Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Italy, a booze-soaked party thrown by Truman Capote, a mysterious Swedish film star, and the gorgeous love story between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo--what's not to adore about this novel? From the first page, I was swept into the rich and mesmerizing world of Castellani's LEADING MEN, and enjoyed it right up to its incredibly moving and satisfying ending. This ambitious novel has a rich cast of characters and whisks you from 1950s Italy in the 1950s to Manhattan in the 1960s to the theate ...more
    Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
    4.5. How I wish Goodreads allowed .5's. This is one of those rare books where I actually slowed down while reading to stay with the characters longer. All of them are so lovingly rendered, realistically and some times painfully, Frank broke my heart. The story told is the relationship between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo, with sections that move back and forth between their time spent in Italy and abroad in the 1950's while Williams was writing some of his best plays, and current times in ...more
    Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
    Traditionally I enjoy historical fiction and ones revolving around real life characters are all the more interesting and yet…this one was a drag, no pun intended, despite the fact that a drag queen saves the day toward the end of the book. I tried and tried. Something about the gay romantic lives of famous authors just didn’t do it for me. I don’t think it was the setting, post WWII Italy and present day NYC and Provincetown are great literary destinations. So it has to be down to the characters ...more
    Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    A stunning meditation on love, fame and art. Castellani asks, 'Do we not play our parts every minute of every day, even when we are alone?' By toggling between memory, letters and the stage he digs into the indispensable question of how we define the past and future - and even ourselves. He left me reeling and I loved it. Read this book.
    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
    Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
    Shelves: arc
    "They say artists crave immortality. I say we don't give a fuck about the next life. It's this one we want more of." *

    In the summer of 1953, American writer Tennessee Williams and his lover Frank Merlo attend a wild party in Italy hosted by Truman Capote.  It's there that they meet the beautiful aspiring actress Anja Blomgren and their lives change forever.

    Tenn and Frank travel Italy with Anja and her mother, as well as writer Jack Horne and his lover Sandro.  After hiking to a remote cliff, the
    Kim McGee
    Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it
    The story of the great love affair between playwright Tennesse Williams and Frank Merlo is one of hidden desires, public discretion, and unfinished business. It is a look at what it takes to love a genius, someone with a great talent and even greater ego in a time of great talent and secrets. This is a close look at some very famous couples and their friends, some equally talented and most just wanting to be part of the glamour. The underlying theme of this book is peeling the layers back on wha ...more
    Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: 2019-reads
    I liked this book--4 stars liked it--but something was missing for me and I can't put my finger on what. Still, solid way to start the year and I'm looking forward to digging into Castellani's backlist now.
    Jeanne Blasberg
    Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    This book was ground breaking for me in many ways. The structure was brilliant, but more than that was the rendering of the relationships - so difficult to define with societal lexicon - which suffered because there was no acceptable construct. There was so much love and caring between Frank and Tennessee and between Frank and Anja, but because these relationships were outside the norm, they were terribly vulnerable and subject to uproar. Never before have I read and empathized with characters w ...more
    Chuck Selvaggio
    Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Chris Castellani's "Leading Men" beckons the reader deeply into the world with such beauty and originality that we are both in awe of his incredible talents that open so many private doors and of his abilities to risk such originality with just the right perspective to avoid overindulgence and sentimentality. I was unmoored by his characters -both historical and fictional - as they beautifully unfolded and revealed universal truths about the underbelly of fame as well as about the salvation of l ...more
    Katherine Sherbrooke
    I absolutely loved this book. Castellani's writing is incredible-- stopping me in my tracks many times over in order to fully appreciate the nuance he brings to descriptions, whether physical or emotional. But more importantly, this is a story of the human condition. The Italian coastline and backstage look into the lives of artists like Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote give the story a compelling context, but it is the human stories of Frank Morelo and Anja Bloom that will grab your heart a ...more
    Austin Broussard
    Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    I received an advanced copy of Leading Men as part of my job as an independent bookseller.

    I'm a long-time fan of Tennessee Williams—I feel the need to admit to that up front—and where art and fandom intersect the path forward forks in only two distinct ways. Adoration or revulsion? The stars on this review already indicate which path I took, I know, but I just wanted to first consider the risks taken—those always taken—when reducing the life of a mythic figure to a fictional representation. It
    Cheryl D
    Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    I wasn't sure what to think when I opened the package and then read the jacket. My first thought "another one of this truth/fiction historical novels...ho hum" Ho Hum couldn't begin to describe this superbly written story which gives an inkling into the lives of writing royalty. Beautifully crafted characters and smooth as silk writing make this book one that you will savor as you slowly discover the nuances of each of the main characters. This is a keeper on my "permanent" bookshelf.

    "I received
    Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it

    First I would like to state that I received this book through the Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the author for giving me this opportunity and honor in being able to read this book. When I received this book I began reading it at once. The plot flowed along smoothly keeping you turning the pages wanting to read more. It has very well laid out and interesting characters. I really enjoy the authors writing style. It was a very enjoyable book and feel tha
    Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
    2.5. I kept forcing myself through the grown-up Anja sections because I really enjoyed the past scenes of Frank, Tennessee, Truman, and all the other fabulous writers and their friends and parties, but upon discovering at the ~60% mark that I was then going to have to read an embedded play, that was it for me. I couldn't force it any longer. Sorry y'all.
    Donna Wetzel
    Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
    Shelves: first-reads
    Thanks Goodreads for my copy of Leading Men by Christopher Castellani. I will say the book was well written however the subject matter was boring. I tried to get all the way through this book but I ended up giving up eventually. There wasn't the gossip that I expected from this book and there wasn't much going on with the characters to hold my interest.
    Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    As an avid fan of Tennessee Williams *and* biographies/memoirs by and about him, I was excited to see a focus on Frank Merlot and others around Williams. This is a brilliant fictionalization of this moment and the incredible surroundings these folks sought out. I devoured it and loved it. I suspect it will be a book club hit since there is so much to dig into - but also just a hit in general.
    Michele Ferrari
    Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    A beautiful and layered exploration of men's relationships, and of the complexity of love, fame, power, and vulnerability in a lush mid-20th century setting. The Williams-Merlo love story is juxtaposed with the current day staging of a lost Williams play. The balance between the two periods deepens the story and gives the reader a deeper sense of how the historical moment impacted the relationship. An important and gorgeous book.
    James Beggarly
    Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
    Wonderful book that gives Frank Merlo, Tennessee Williams’ long time love, the chance to tell his story as Williams is trying to finish the script for Visconti’s film Senso in various cities in Italy. All this and Truman Capote too.
    Dec 22, 2018 rated it liked it
    Shelves: 2018, december-2018
    I won a copy of "Leading Men" on Goodreads First Reads. I normally love fiction about real people. This book sounded so interesting. The writing is very good and I'm sure that it will be a popular book. It just wasn't for me.
    Chip Cheek
    Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Absolutely beautiful novel.
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    Jon Barrett
    rated it it was amazing
    Jan 21, 2019
    Sara Leonard
    rated it it was amazing
    Jul 08, 2018
    rated it liked it
    Jan 06, 2019
    Catherine Elcik
    rated it it was amazing
    Nov 24, 2018
    Emily Crowe
    rated it it was ok
    Nov 28, 2018
    Donna Bailey
    rated it it was ok
    Dec 19, 2018
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    Christopher Castellani is the son of Italian immigrants and a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He lives in Boston, where he is the artistic director of Grub Street, one of the country's leading independent creative writing centers. He is the author of three novels: All This Talk of Love (2013) -- a New York Times Editors' Choice -- A Kiss from Maddalena (2003)--winner of the Massachusetts Book Awar ...more
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