Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Rainbow Milk” as Want to Read:
Rainbow Milk
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Rainbow Milk

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,840 ratings  ·  265 reviews
Rainbow Milk is an intersectional coming-of-age story, following nineteen-year-old Jesse McCarthy as he grapples with his racial and sexual identities against the backdrop of a Jehovah's Witness upbringing and the legacies of the Windrush generation.

In the Black Country in the 1950s, ex-boxer Norman Alonso is a determined and humble Jamaican who has moved to Britain with h
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 23rd 2020 by Dialogue Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Rainbow Milk, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Rainbow Milk

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,840 ratings  ·  265 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Rainbow Milk
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Like Bernadine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other, Paul Mendez's assured debut, Rainbow Milk, charts an unacknowledged British history, of the Windrush generation, its legacies, right through to the coming of age of a young black man, Jesse McCarthy, growing up in the black country, rejected by the Jehovah's Witness's, despite being one of its congregation's favoured sons, thrown out by his family too. It begins with the arrival from Jamaica in the 1950s of experienced gardener and ex-boxer, Norman A ...more
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, owned
"We leave the Garden of Eden for the Land of Milk and Honey and find Sodom and Gomorrah."

This is one of the wisest, most beautiful and ambitious debuts I've ever read. It's like a dream, though sometimes you're not quite sure whether it's nightmare that you really want to wake up from. At times you float in a state of bliss and desire, you feel warm, strong arms fulfilling your need to be held. Other times the hopelessness and loneliness are overwhelming.

Rainbow Milk is told from two POVs. The f
Rainbow Milk is a coming of age story—a raw and unfiltered look at race and religion, sex and sexuality in modern Britain.

The novel begins with a Windrush Generation couple migrating to the UK in the 1950s. This thread quickly gives way to the story of teenaged Jesse in the 2000s. Black, gay and shunned by his religious family, Jesse runs away to London, turning to sex work and drifting until eventually finding meaningful connections, and uncovering his family history.

Rainbow Milk is a ficti
Rainbow Milk opens in the summer of 1959 in England. We hear from Norman Alonso, a Jamaican living in England with his wife who is seeking to provide a secure future for their children. Norman grew in Jamaica from humble beginnings, while he didn’t lack anything, his wife Glorie convinced him that life would be better in England. Life in England did not turn out how Norman expected, from illness, to a hardened marriage and racism, where was the bright future he envisioned?

Fast forward to 2002
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Now longlisted for the 2021 Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction

“I’m sure the life you’re living, set against the way you were raised, is giving you plenty to think about, and writing is the best way to order one’s thoughts, so keep it going”

This book was sourced and published by Sharmaine Lovegrove and her Dialogue book imprint with Little Brown.

Paul Mendez, the author, has in the past worked as a actor and voice actor (in particular recording the audio book for Ian Wright’s autobiograph
Andrew Howdle
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Thomas Love Peacock observed that book reviews are written either by Mr Treacle or Mr Gall. In our modern culture obsessed with “likes” in one form or another, Mr Treacle dominates proceedings. If Peacock were writing today, he would have to create two new literary characters – Mr and Mrs Golden Syrup – and so acknowledge those editors who take balanced criticism, remove any offending words, and re-package articles as unqualified praise. Quite a lot of this has taken place in relation to Rainbow ...more
Eric Anderson
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rarely have I read a debut novel that conveys the piercingly accurate immediacy of its central characters' experiences with such grace and insight. “Rainbow Milk” begins with the story of Norman Alonso, a horticulturist and former-boxer from Jamaica who moves his family to England as part of the Windrush generation. He suffers from a debilitating illness which is causing him to lose his sight and he finds working and integrating into a small British community much more challenging than he expect ...more
Brown Girl Reading
Apr 11, 2021 rated it liked it
This novel follows a young black, gay man called Jesse who lives cloistered in the Jehovah Witness community. As readers, we follow his search to be happy and loved as a gay man. The road is long and hard but the author uses Jesse's journey to show us the difficulty to be young, black and gay. Paul Mendez uses music and literature to accent certain aspects of the story which I found to be an interesting touch. While I found the character of Jesse to be naive but very likable, Rainbow Milk seems ...more
Tom Mooney
Jun 16, 2020 rated it liked it
There's a lot to admire about this courageous debut novel that feels like it landed at just the right moment. But it's far from perfect.

The novel opens with a glorious 60-page prologue, telling the story of Norman, a Jamaican family man trying to make a life in the Midlands. The writing in this opening section is so, so strong. It's first person, in Norman's accent, and feels authentic, engaging and heartfelt.

Norman arrives in England to find life isn't what he expected. Upon arrival in the bla
A very strong debut literary fiction novel by Paul Mendez! Instead of giving you a synopsis, I will dive right into how I felt about this story—I went in without reading the synopsis and I actually think you should as well! This story is an intergenerational depiction on what it means to be Black and Queer historically in the United Kingdom. From microaggressions, to flat out racist and homophobic rhetoric, Rainbow Milk shows how several individuals navigate this trying and difficult behavio ...more
Bernardiine Evaristo
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
When did you last read a novel about a young, black, gay, Jehovah Witness man from Wolverhampton who flees his community to make his way in London as a prostitute? This might be a debut, but Mendez is an exciting, accomplished and daring storyteller with a pitch-perfect ear for dialogue. Graphic Erotica Alert! Don’t read this book if you like your fiction cosy and middle-of-the-road.
Catherine Barter
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was blown away by Rainbow Milk. The writing is so good and the character at the centre of it, Jesse, is just so very thunderingly alive. There is a long section set on a mild, sunny Christmas Day in a London house-share, with two characters drinking champagne all day and listening to music, and Jesse discovering Joy Division, and it's honestly one of the best passages of fiction I think I've read in years. It's so simple on the surface but there is SO much happening.

There's a lot of sex and a
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have so much love for this book.

My words wont do this book justice but I'll give it a go.

It talks about race, sexuality and religion in a way I've not really read before, it was so honest and raw. As a straight, white women I can't relate to a lot of what happens in this book but Mendez has written it in such a way and so well that I felt it all. He made my heart swell with joy and hope and wrenched it with the sadness and the oppression.

I absolutely adored his references to music throughout t
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!

My review will be up later but it’s my favourite book of the year so far.
Jane Healey
Apr 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This novel is stunning - wise, tender, piercing, generous, bruising. One of those books that feels instantly canonical. Also, the descriptions of music are just sublime.

I really admire the way Rainbow Milk explores the mechanics of desire, I think so often literary novels describe sex/desire in quite a pinched, detached way, like it’s something that just happens to their characters, but this novel revels in those moments.
Rainbow Milk is difficult to pin down immediately, or indeed at all: the first part of the book tells the story of a Jamaican couple, part of the Windrush generation, who come to live in a far-from-idyllic Black Country town in the 1950s; the rest is devoted to a coming-of-age tale about a young gay black man from a Jehovah’s Witness family, who runs away to London and becomes a sex worker. Some critics have described the novel as ‘raw’, a term that seems to suit it well, capturing both its flaw ...more
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: blm
I really wanted to love this book but I didn't.

The book starts by telling the story of Norman, a Jamaican immigrant who has just arrived in the Uk in the 1950s - We hear his story in his voice and accent - it's beautiful and I wanted to know more of what happened to him but after 4 chapters we don't hear about him again. His story just ends abruptly without having ended.

The rest of the book focuses on Jesse, a gay Jehovah's Witness growing up in the 2000s. There are just too many random scenes t
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a debut wow. I went in purposely not knowing anything about the book, I was drawn by the description on NetGalley but apart from that I went in without expectations.
I was blown away by the characters, the depth of them, the storytelling is excellent. Paul does not shy away from detail, we're right there with Jesse - be it door to door or facing his lover intimately.
Jesse's story is soundtracked and if you take a moment to listen to the songs to set the scene it adds that extra level.
Paul M
Apr 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book completely surpassed my expectations. Rainbow Milk is a semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age novel that follows 19-year-old Jesse McCarthy, a young gay black man who flees his very religious community in the West Midlands to make his way as a prostitute in London. This book tackles themes of race, class, religion, sexuality, freedom, privilege and more. Paul Mendez is such a gifted writer and I devoured this book in four days. His prose is the kind I love, rich and descriptive without ...more
Gabrielle Ward
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5/5 Review Coming Soon!
Brett Benner
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing

This year there seems to be just an incredible collection of debut authors premiering coming of age stories both real and imagined. With ‘Rainbow Milk’ Paul Mendez has written one of the best. Jesse McCarthy (and no, not the singer) is a nineteen year Jamaican living in the Black Country of the UK with his mother and white step father. “His mother had married a white man, but how could a white man raise a black boy to be anything other than white, and to consider his blackness as a disability to
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it
I can't decide what to make of this novel, at its heart it's a raw, visceral and graphic coming of age story, but there's a lot of padding in the writing. I felt there were too many scenes in restaurants for no particular reason and quite patronising explanations of art and culture at times. I didn't care about any of the characters, but did wonder what happened to Norman's story?
For me, a shorter, less rambling book would've been better and definitely without the dialogue written in dialect - p
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I want to give this book 10 stars. I am utterly gutted. One minute I was in tears reading Jean-Alain's brilliant rant in Chapter 4 and the next the book was over. So many of the characters vividly reminded me of real people I met, and the book has the soundtrack of my life in London. Why did it have to end? Then I remember the first chapters happening in another time, in less familiar places, and I want to read the whole thing all over again. Paul Mendez, thank you so much, for the pleasure and ...more
Derek Wiltshire
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 01, 2021 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
rina dunn
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's not very often I'm left at a loss of words over a book but Rainbow Milk is one of those books for me. It Is Stunningly written and one of the most captivating books I've read in a long time.

Paul Mendez's debut novel charts the unacknowledged history and legacies of the Windrush generation where the story begins in the 1950s. Right up to the coming of age story of a young black man Jesse McCarthy.

Norman and Claudette arrive from Jamaica to the Black Country. Heavily pregnant the couple have
James Hocking
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 but it deserves to be rounded up ☝️
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Raw and painful at times, but also hopeful and uplifting. The duality of this novel is something to definitely admire. I loved the first part of this novel, almost written like a novelette in Jamaican patois about a Jamaican family moving to London in a search of better life. The novel also fits perfectly in the current discussion around 'Black Lives Matter' movement - a lot of subtleties in between the lines and words that indicate how severely discriminated people of color can be, even through ...more
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Such a powerful debut, and worthy of all the highly rated reviews. Rainbow Milk is a coming of age fiction which explores race, class and sexuality, as the lead character Jesse comes in to his own as an ex-Jehovah’s Witness come sex worker having moved from the ‘The Black Country’ to London.

Really enjoyed reading this, Paul Mendez does such a great job with this book, the characters he develops and the tales he weaves throughout the very descriptive pages. You find yourself rooting for Jesse, s
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thanks to NetGalley and The Publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did. After my initial confusion as to whether I was reading the correct book or not (this will make sense when you read it) and wondering how it was going to develop, suddenly I was reading a totally different book, which I also wasn't expecting. But the contrast not only in story but language for me, was genius. Many contrasts are examined in this book so this I hope w
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Trust Exercise
  • The Wedding Party (The Wedding Date, #3)
  • A Luminous Republic
  • All You Can Ever Know
  • Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams
  • Catherine House
  • Ayoade on Top
  • The Miseducation of Cameron Post
  • The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House
  • Mirror, Mirror
  • Metamorphoses
  • Little Siberia
  • The Deep
  • Open Water
  • Music from Another World
  • The Good, the Bad and the Little Bit Stupid
  • The Holdout
See similar books…

Articles featuring this book

  Every December, as we wrap up our annual Goodreads Reading Challenge, we ask our book-loving colleagues a simple yet incredibly tough...
180 likes · 322 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“It’s nothing special. I just write to remember things and explain things to myself.” 0 likes
“It was so intense, and erotic, the feeling that someone wanted to know exactly what was on his mind, to be so close to him as to tease out his unvoiced thoughts.” 0 likes
More quotes…