It’s hard to know what else you can possibly add to a book that already has all the glowing reviews in the world. There is a reason some books are hyped, and everyone says “you need to read this”, because sometimes it’s true.
What Belongs To You tells the story of an American teacher living in Bulgaria who first meets Mitko in a public bathroom, where he pays him for sex. Throughout the subsequent years Mitko’s continued involvement in his life gives us a view into a relationship that is hard to define.
This is an intimate story detailing every minute aspect of a mans life as he tries to navigate his way between the deep sensual attachment he has to Mitko, and the undercurrent of violence and anger always present. Theirs is a relationship of obsession, lust, love, and dependence.
Garth Greenwell’s writing is effortlessly exquisite, building beautiful sentences that call out to be re-read and re-read time and again.
I love books that detail the small connections between two people and What Belongs To You is one of the most honest and human portrayals of that intimacy that I have read in a long time.
What Belongs To You is on the longlist for the Green Carnation Prize and I bought my copy from Wordery
I first became familiar with Jeanette Winterson due to the dramatisation of her first novel, Orange Are Not The Only Fruit, which aired on the BBC in 1990. This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of a lesbian growing up in a religious community in England and explores family relationships, sexuality, and religion.
I finally read the book as part of my A’Level English course and loved Winterson’s storytelling so much I tried to read everything she’d written. This was easy given, at that point, she’d only published six novels. Since I first started reading her work, she has published (if I’ve counted correctly) 16 novels, many collections of short stories, screenplays, and a memoir.
If you haven’t read Oranges I’d recommend you start with that, but following on one of my early favourites is Written on the Body.
Written on the Body is a very difficult novel to define. An intimate portrayal of lust and love, the gender of the main character remains undefined throughout, forcing you to read the book not as a response of one gender to another, but as desire for a physical body.
For a completely different story, try Tanglewreck – a children’s fantasy time-travelling tale. A sci-fi Dickensian exploration of quantum physics that is full of adventure and humour.
Winterson has also contributed to the Hogarth Shakespeare series of re-tellings which have been released since 2015. I’ve not found the time to read The Gap of Time, her re-telling of The Winter’s Tale, but the story sounds fascinating so I’d recommend giving that a try.
The Gracekeepers is set in a very different world from our own, one where the earth has been swallowed up by the water and the divisions between those who live on land (the landlockers) and those who live on the sea (damplings) run deep. Callanish is a Gracekeeper, charged with overseeing the restings – when the deceased are sent to a watery grave. North is a performer on the circus boat the Excalibur, along with her bear. The meeting between these two complex characters sparks a change in both of them that has far reaching consequences.
This exquisitely written novel by Kirsty Logan made me curious about the divisions between cultures and the suspicion we have of people different from ourselves – how we mythologise things we don’t know or understand in order to try and make sense of it. By the end of the book I wanted to read more about North and Callanish and felt like I was leaving behind potential friends I’d only just got to know. I think this is a testament to how good Kirsty Logan is at writing characters who are essentially very private and afraid, hiding secrets that could have a serious impact on their lives if found out.
Would I recommended you read this book? Yes, slowly, to savour the beautiful writing. Buy the Book