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Champagne Kindle Edition
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- File Size : 816 KB
- Publication Date : May 13, 2012
- Word Wise : Enabled
- ASIN : B0083BJ8BK
- Publisher : Beaten Track Publishing; 2nd Edition (May 13, 2012)
- Print Length : 354 pages
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Language: : English
- Simultaneous Device Usage : Unlimited
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,980,659 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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First of all, you all must to read this book, but be warned, you'll be FEELING things when you do so. To some of you that might be a bit of a chock, particularly as the emotional roller-coaster Debbie is taking you on is not a very pleasant one. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I love this book for a great many reasons, and I loathe it for one, and one reason only (I will not disclose it until later, because of the spoiler.)
Thing is, for a debut novel, this is very accomplished, and knowing the author, I have a hunch there's plenty of her strewn in, too, in various places and characters, in a very good way though.
I started reading it and felt, after a few pages that this was not the book for me. Too many straight characters, and an abused teen? An alcoholic dad? Been there, done that, no need for that sort of drama. Then comes a first "churning" point (or turning point really), when we're slammed in the gut with a revelation that is key to the rest of the book.
I start to really like the main protagonist, Sammy, and the way things go for him, how he picks himself up from the gutter and the book goes on and on, for several years, and it's this comfy drama of working class Britain (only a true Brit could talk about "emigrate to Europe" as if the British Isles were a continent of their own, not a severed appendix 50 miles north of France… I very much resented that sentence btw! LOL)
As would be with any good book, once you're just about settling in your bubble bath along with Frank, as I did tonight, Debbie throws another punch, and this one draws tears and left - at least me - nauseous.
I increased the reading speed, unable to wait for the ending, needing, craving, demanding closure. My entire body was aching for closure, and my Kindle app was kindly informing me that I was just minutes from the end, when it suddenly crept up on me, the end, leaving me alone in my misery, alone to deal with the emotional repercussions of my loathing for some of the characters, my physical need to comfort the one decent person who is so brutally abused, hurt for not being able to do just that.
I'm still wondering how to 'rate' a book like this. Just a second ago, I was sure that writing this brilliant, having this sort of affect on my emotional state deserves a five star rating, and it does. Yet for all it's brilliance, I cannot, and in order to explain my reasoning, I have to include a spoiler here:
This book ends as if Debbie suddenly realized that she had a pot of tea on the stove, and then forgot she had a half-finished manuscript on her laptop. Sure, I love a happy ending, and not getting one is always painful for someone like me. But not getting an ending, leaving a conversation almost mid-sentence, is - for lack of a better word - weird. A friend of mine once said that she despises endings with a ribbon, so neatly tied that there's nothing left for the imagination. The sort of HEA (happily ever after) that you see in fairy tales. That's not what I expect. Life rarely delivers us that, but I think the reader deserves an ending, where at least the main plot comes to a resolution. I feel robbed of that ending, and it literally left me breathless for a while. For that, I'll have to deduct a couple of stars, and I would hope that Debbie at one point finds the courage to finish this book, and give us the closure (be it happy or not) we deserve. We want to know what happens to Champagne and the film, the relationship with Sammy, how will Frank handle things, what about Leslie, and James? Did he return to Europe or stay in Europe? (Get it Debbie?) And David & Carole? So many characters, so many questions. We're not asking for a Happy Ending, but for emotional closure, because your roller coaster track ends at the edge of a cliff, going full speed. Needless to say that I'm still gasping for air, as my emotions go through a free fall!
This was one of the most difficult books I've ever read, not just because Debbie so masterfully makes you care for and then dislike the main protagonist, how she describes an England in a very interesting time (early eighties), when the gay movement was so very vulnerable thanks to the Thatcher regime and AIDS.
If you are ready to be taken for a ride, then brace for impact, because Champagne will certainly rock your boat!
"It was a strange and exciting place for Sammy." The book's opening line seems to prophesy the reader's experience. "He'd never seen the brightly lit shops and clubs at night. Throughout his daylight searching he unquestioningly strode past the many girls his own age who congregated about this normally drab, dirty London backstreet, chip papers and cigarette ends littering the floor and the dust clouds stinging his eyes with the slightest gust of the chill January winds...behind one of the large brick buildings that loomed perpetually dark and uninviting in daylight, and transformed into a kind of huge revolving Ferris Wheel at the onset of dusk, spinning with life, people clamouring for a ride and later staggering away, dazed by the giddy heights they had dared to encounter..."
McGowan opens a window in a seedy, dank room, and looks out onto an 80s landscape of prostitution, drug addiction and domestic abuse and its devastating effects. This vision stands in stark contrast to the more popular glamorized, sanitized view of the 80s.
What resonated and rang most true for me was the love relationships. Have you ever wondered what your best friend sees in his or her significant other? Me, too. With "Champagne," I kept wondering what various characters saw in each other, what made one love the other. Why did Leslie stay with the philandering, lying Chris even after what Chris brings home to him? Why does Frankie love Sammy who doesn't seem to love him in return? Why was Sammy so powerfully attracted to the self-absorbed and alcoholic Champagne?
Still the book remains hopeful and positive with the characters bearing their wounds stoically and moving on. Even now weeks after finishing the book, I think of Sammy and wonder if he ever found his happily ever after.
After reading the book, I discovered "Champagne" started its life as a cabaret show--and that made sense. This is elemental fiction, a story reduced to its core components. McGowan combines unfussy characters with economical writing.
If you like fiction that doesn't tie everything up in a neat little bow at the end, if you believe fiction, like life, is a question mark leading to endless possibilities, you will like "Champagne." As I did.
McGowan's writing is comparable to Sarah Waters' extremely thorough and captivatingly sensual descriptions. The journey that Sammy takes, and his relationship "Champagne" reminded me a bit of watching the movie "Gia" which was the portrait of the lesbian supermodel's chaotic descent into drugs and disallusion. But unlike Gia, "Champagne," while dark and disturbing in its depictions, is not a story of a downward spiral into doom. Rather it is an enthralling and intimate peek into one plucky and personable young man's search for the truth, and for answers, and his refusal to give up finding those answers.
I read this on a PDF on my computer. I have a harder time reading that way, and want to buy the paperback as soon as I can so I can enjoy it even more. I love gay themed fiction and I especially love period pieces. Highly recommended.
Top reviews from other countries
The story is set at the start of the discovery of AIDS when men were just starting to wake up and take notice, some more than others. Sam the main character - I can't call him the hero as there is nothing heroic about him - was an abused child and so there you feel sympathy for him, but the more you read about his personality traits the more you actually don't like him.
He's obsessed with a drag queen and thats all he ever thinks about.
Whilst his 'friends' - and I use the term loosely as he really only has acquaintances - fall about around him.
Cindy in particular who he appears to care for and then he watches as she slowly destroys herself, does absolutely nothing about it. He doesn't warn what could have been is best friend (if only he'd worked at it) about his unfaithful partner, and the way he treats Frank is frankly (forgive the pun) atrocious.
Sam is self centered, obsessive, selfish, moody and downright uncaring.
This story was quite different because it really lacked any sense of happiness or fulfilment. I have read others by this author which I remember enjoying but if you're feeling a little down, reading this sad tale will make you feel even worse.
At the end of the book Sam is only a child of 22 and in limbo, he has no idea what to do or where his life will go. I feel sorry for him because he could have been happy, but he's making the same mistakes as his father, or so it would seem. Its a seedy world he lives in and the story reflects that, maybe that's why he's the way he is.
I can't say I though this was a great read because I found it depressing; Sam was such a dick for a main character, but it was written well with only a few typos and it did evoke the era. The only happiness in it came with David who even in his grief brought a breath of fresh air with him. A sad tale about an obsessive youth.
The strength of this book is in the relationships. It's set in the 1980s and AIDS is appearing in Britain. The people involved in the club find they aren't immune. The story pulled me in and I was touched by the way the men tried to be faithful in relationships in which the reader could see the cracks. I felt it ended abruptly. I wanted more. Perhaps there will be more to come?