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Secret Love Hardcover – March 5, 2001
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
From Publishers Weekly
The new novel by the author of Blue Bossa is a story of two secret loves, of the kind that at the time the book is set 1960s San Francisco were both afraid to speak their name. Hero Jake Roseman is a civil rights lawyer, high in the councils of the city, who falls hard for Nisa, a lovely young black demonstrator. Since he also has family troubles at home, with two kids trying to recover from their mother's suicide and an elderly, crankily racist father, he does his best to keep Nisa away from them, much to her annoyance. Meanwhile, Simon Sims, a bright young black man drawn to the new Muslim cause despised by his Baptist minister father, nurses a homosexual passion for a white actor, but is also drawn by furtive gropings in the park. The stories of these characters move in parallel, both coming to little climaxes and then fading away. The novel offers a relaxed, friendly read, with a great feel for its time and place and some moving and dramatic moments. But the lead characters, despite nice establishing touches and some well-turned speeches on themes of the era, never seem very convincing, and the lack of narrative drive and tension in the book make reading it ultimately a rather pallid experience. Author tour. (Mar. 3)now renamed the Ruminator Review.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Schneider seems well on his way to making the San Francisco of the 1960s and '70s his own personal Yoknapatawpha County. Not only does he evoke the streets of the city with an almost poetic precision, he populates his fictional world with characters who capture both the energy and the ambiguity of the place and the times. Part of the lure of the '60s and of San Francisco has always been the availability of the forbidden; Schneider uses this theme masterfully but never predictably. In a double love story set against the civil-rights activism of the early '60s, four characters embrace forbidden relationships with tenderness and passion and then must deal with the emotional fallout. Jack Roseman is a 45-year-old activist lawyer in love with Nina Boehm, a twentysomething black actress; Nina's friend, Peter, also an actor, is in love with Simon Sims, who must reconcile his homosexuality with both his upbringing in the Baptist Church and his commitment to the Nation of Islam. Yes, Schneider deals sensitively with all the political, social, and, racial questions these relationships suggest, but what makes the novel soar is the intimacy with which he portrays individuals in love and in pain. Like Baldwin in Another Country--a novel this one evokes both in its spirit and its passion--Schneider uses the drama of forbidden relationships as a way of approaching his real subject: the human heart in turmoil. Schneider's Blue Bossa was among the best first novels of 1998; this one will be among the best novels of any kind in 2001. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
I was very fortunate in that I lived in San Francisco in the years after the setting of this novel ['62-'63] and I highlited every city reference that Schneider mentions-streets, businesses, streetcars, sporting references-everything and the entire novel was one wonderful lookback for me. I cannot judge Secret Love by the standards of literary analysis but I can say that he presented an extremely compelling plot-certainly, in my opinion, far removed from anything that would fall under the rubric of "boring".
Schneider's San Francisco falls into that exclusive period between the end of the "Beat" era and the onset of the more
popularly known "Hippie" era with one of the main players actually getting a job behind the counter at that city icon of City Lights bookstore. A fitting dessert for a sumptious meal.
The first part of the novel centers mainly around Jake and Nisa, with the second half devoting more equal time to Peter and Simon. One of these romances ends in tragedy, and the other just ends--ultimately, I wasn't sure exactly what the book was trying to say. However, the descriptions of San Francisco plus the civil rights zeitgeist added interesting elements to the story; there was enough here that I *wanted* to find out how it ended even though I was a bit disappointed once I did.