About this book
Rent boys, aristocrats, artists, and criminals populate this sweeping novel in which author Jonathan Kemp skillfully interweaves the lives and loves of three very different men in gay London across the decades.
In the 1890s, a young man named Jack apprentices as a rent boy and discovers a life of pleasure and excess that leads to new friendships, most notably with the soon-to-be-infamous Oscar Wilde. A century later in 1998, David tells his own tale of unashamed decadence from prison, recalling life as young man arriving in the city in the mid-1980s. Where their paths cross, in the politically sensitive 1950s when gay men were the target of police and politicians alike, the artist Colin tentatively explores his sexuality while working on his painting "London Triptych."
Moodily atmospheric and rich with history, London Triptych is a sexy, resplendent portrait of the politics and pleasures of queer life in one of the world's most fascinating cities.
London itself is as powerful a presence here as the three gay men whose lives it absorbs.
―Times Literary Supplement
Vivid and visceral, London Triptych
cuts deep to reveal the hidden layers of a secret history.
―Jake Arnott, author of The Long Firm
Charting three very different affairs taking place against the backdrop of three very different Londons, Jonathan Kemp's first novel is a thought-provoking inquiry into what changes in gay men's lives as the decades pass -- and what doesn't. As the connections and reflections across the years reveal themselves, this is a book that will make you think -- and make you feel.
―Neil Bartlett, novelist and playwright
Despite reaching across a century, Kemp's characters are believable and down to earth; the focus is not on period setting but on dialogue. A thoroughly absorbing and pacy read ... A fresh angle on gay life and on the oldest profession.
―Time Out London
Kemp's language is beautiful; his characters are carefully drawn and the dialogue engaging. The narratives overlap and are all the more moving for their subtlety. Drawing inspiration from the life and work of Oscar Wilde, just as Michael Cunningham's The Hours
drew from Virginia Woolf, London Triptych
is a touching and engrossing read.
Skillfully woven into the characters' development are atmospheric descriptions of the travails of gay life―witch hunts, police harassment, trials ... Snappy dialogue and unique perspectives make London Triptych
a compelling, easy read about politics and pleasure in London.
Elegantly written, this novel, first published in the UK and winner of the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award, is for readers who appreciate period detail and historical context about the gay male experience.
As well as being a captivating read, London Triptych
leaves you marvelling at Kemp's literary high-wire act.
Kemp masterfully resurrects Oscar Wilde, as well as Alfred Taylor, an inordinate and utterly fabulous procurer of prostitutes, of which Wilde indulged ... The two real-life characters of late 19th-century London best illustrate the freedom and beauty of sex.
Prostitution, prison, and the police are recurring themes in Jonathan Kemp's ambitious and intricate first novel ... a fine and finally elegiac book.
Jonathan Kemp delivers a real treat with London Triptych
, a serious, deeply researched saga with a lightning pace ... Smart and seductive.