BOOK REVIEW: NIVEN GOVINDEN – THIS BRUTAL HOUSE

It’s a brand new review today and it’s all about the brilliant This Brutal House by Niven Govinden…

I read this book last month but everything’s been a bit hectic and I couldn’t put it into words how much I enjoyed this book. I did, a lot. So, what’s it about? Here’s the blurb:

On the steps of New York’s City Hall, five ageing Mothers sit in silent protest. They are the guardians of the vogue ball community – queer men who opened their hearts and homes to countless lost Children, providing safe spaces for them to explore their true selves.

Through epochs of city nightlife, from draconian to liberal, the Children have been going missing; their absences ignored by the authorities and uninvestigated by the police. In a final act of dissent the Mothers have come to pray: to expose their personal struggle beneath our age of protest, and commemorate their loss until justice is served.

Watching from City Hall’s windows is city clerk, Teddy. Raised by the Mothers, he is now charged with brokering an uneasy truce.

I’ve been wanting to read this for quite some time but it never felt like the right time to give it my full attention but after finishing the first series of the television drama Pose, I knew it was the right time to get myself a copy. Straight away, from the very first page, I was hooked. Govinden is a genius of a writer – the way he draws you into this world, the way he writes his character, their dialogue, the setting – everything. It just feels so visceral, so real, so brilliant. His writing is sharp, lyrical, poetic, emotional, hopeful and hilarious too. You really do get drawn into this world and you just can’t stop yourself turning the page.

I loved how Govinden plays with structure and language in the book – I found it really refreshing and created a whole new reading experience for me. He draws you into the silent protest of the mothers, and then we see it in Teddy’s eyes and also the Vogue Caller which I also loved as it created a wider community within the book, and again, gives a new layer to the reading experience. No word is wasted and Govinden uses the page with gorgeous prose and characterisation – and never dropping a beat. It’s a powerful, vital, significant book that will make you think, days after days once you’ve finished.

They shall know our names; memorise these faces. Sherry, TyTy and Diamonds. All the others, whose names we could embroider onto quilts to cover this nation twice over. Even without photographs or other details, they shall dream as we dream: underscored by a meaty, substantial fear that snakes through fattened guts and settles in the marrow. They shall think of their own children and grandchildren and quake for their safety; insides rotting with worry, and unable to live their lives, weighed down by the omnipresent threat of what might happen to their young if they too strayed to our side. They will learn the names of ours.

This was a wonderful reading experience – a book that I won’t forget in a hurry. It’s about parenthood, motherhood, identity, family, being queer, and so much more. What I got from the book was a sense of family, of community that shines right throughout the course of the book. Govinden’s writing is brilliant and witty, hopeful and emotional that will make you want more. It will make you want to protest, to shout, to scream. To do something.

I can’t wait to see what Govinden writes next.

Have you read This Brutal House? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

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