All the Beauty Under the Sun
A superbly written book, this is a poignant and very readable novel. The rich, colourful and complex characters bring this story of homosexuality in post-First World War Britain to life. It is the second in a trilogy, the first being The Boy I Love and the third Paper Moon. The story is well researched and has lots of detail and emotion. It moves on at a cracking pace and keeps the reader’s interest so much that it could easily be read in one or two sessions.
The themes are dealt with sensitively, and plotlines are juggled well. The story of Paul Harris develops as he returns from Tangiers, where he has been living with Patrick, his sergeant in the war. Unsure whether he has made the correct decision, he has returned to London to show his paintings in an art gallery. He is an ex-convict and, if his homosexuality is exposed, he will be in danger. Other characters interweave with Paul: Edmund, whom he is drawn to; Lawrence, the gallery owner; Ann, the artist’s model; Matthew, with his many years in hospital; and Joseph, who is a love rival for Ann. With beautifully written multiple narratives, the characters deal with their changed lives in the years after the First World War.
Twists and turns along the way make the book a compelling read. It keeps its reader’s attention and is difficult to put down once started: an excellent book which does not shy away from the realities of life. Although it is part of a trilogy, it reads just as well as a standalone novel and will have the reader searching out the other two books.