kari's Reviews > The Great Lover: A Novel

The Great Lover by Jill Dawson
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Jun 21, 2010

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bookshelves: 2010, goodreads-giveaways

I knew nothing of Rupert Brooke before starting this novel and not much about the politics and social movements in British society in the years before World War I. There are a lot of things I had to look up in Wikipedia just to make some sense of what was going on; the Fabian Society, the Bloomsbury group, just a basic bio of Brooke himself. I found so many of the references to be about things I knew nothing of that it interrupted the flow of the story quite a bit. I think if you have read a basic bio of Brooke, then this might add to that, but otherwise you might find it a bit confusing.
The character of Nell, a maid working in the house where Rupert lived off and on for a few years, is interesting, but as I read afterward that so many of her words and thoughts were actually those of various of his female companions/friends/lovers that I wish she had been her own character, speaking her own thoughts and that his women had spoken for themselves instead. Or maybe had I not read the author's notes I wouldn't have felt that way. A novel only about Nell would have been a more entertaining read, her talking to the bees and her family, her hopes and dreams.
Rupert seems to both dislike his darker side and to embrace his 'baser instincts' as he might call them. He seemed to be confused by his sexuality, to put it mildly, until near the end of his short life. How could this man who was so adored and admired by both men and women have such a difficult time getting a woman in bed?
Also, was sexual experimentation with one another common among young men of Rupert's social set? At that time, well-brought-up young women weren't even supposed to be in a room alone with a man, so did men, as Rupert and his friends seem to think, turn to one another for sexual knowledge and was that acceptable behavior?
If it seems that I'm focusing too much on Rupert's sex life, well, that seems to be mostly what the book is about. There are some bits here and there of working on a poem or his political writings, but it's mostly about how he can finally get a woman to say yes. And then finding that, perhaps because young women weren't told to enjoy sex or that it should be enjoyable for both parties, he didn't find it to be such fun after all until he finally found/loved a woman in touch with her own sexuality who helped him learn.
I felt very sad for Rupert Brooke, but I'm not sure I can say I exactly liked him. There are a few of his poems included in the copy I read and I did really like them. I'll look for a book of his poetry.
Having completed this novel, the person of Rupert Brooke remains a mystery to me, which possibly was how he saw himself as well.

Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways.
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Reading Progress

June 21, 2010 – Shelved
Started Reading
July 1, 2010 – Finished Reading
July 2, 2010 – Shelved as: 2010
September 16, 2010 – Shelved as: goodreads-giveaways

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