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The Whale Tattoo

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By night it makes him piss the bed, by day it is there yipping from the bank, filling his head with rubbish, warning him to give Fysh up. Coming across a dead sperm whale on a Norfolk beach, the working-class youth believes the dead whale speaks to him, telling him death is following him. Neither the novel nor the author needs my five stars or words of praise but I am proud to be an echo of my betters all the same.

This made for a gusty and at times grubby read as well as exerting an almost elemental power especially with Eli’s relationships with the female characters. Delving deep in the psyche of the main character Joe, who is trapped in a small seaside town, queer and tormented by death. Whether 'Earthly Powers' should be considered a 'gay' novel is considered in my review of the book - it isn't in case you don't want or can't be bothered to read it!Eli’s aunt allows Jimmy, whose family work the merry-go-round at fairs (the gallopers) to stay in their barn and Eli finds himself becoming obsessed. There’s quite a lot of gay sex scenes throughout the novel the scenes are graphic at times but in no way voyeuristic I felt that they were vital to developing the tone of the story and to understanding the characters and their motivation.

Unforgettable characters abound, and Ransom achieves an incredible sense of place while keeping you in the dark in terms of where it actually is. Ransom’s fractured, distinctive prose highlights the beauty and brutality of his story, his extraordinarily vivid sense of place saturates the reader with the wet of the river, and the salty tang of the heaving sea. I can honestly say that I've never read anything quite like it and I have read a lot of books over the years. I can not pretend that I gave a very good response but what I tried to explain, very poorly I am sure, was that the day of the 'gay' novel that dealt with 'homosexuality' as something to be explained and justified to a straight audience was over.The story is divided into three parts - 1958 - 1980 - 1959 - told through the eyes of 19-year-old Eli Stone living in the rural South. There is plenty of frank sex as well as violence, confusion, anger, love, hate, hope, kindness, generosity, egotism, selfless and selfishness and every other emotion, action and potential action that you can think of.

Jon Ransom's debut novel pulls no punches in a story which at its core is about loss and how people [fail to] deal with it.

The body of water it holds penetrates the protagonist’s psyche, floods reality in a way that is both hungry and foreboding.

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