Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review for Portside by Elyan Smith

Life on the dole in a dying town is defined by drinking when you can, smoking to pass the time, and, if you’re gay, going down to the barracks at the old port to get some. Iwan’s got the cigarettes and the booze down pat, but he lacks experience, so he sticks to online porn and watching the lads portside.

Everyone else seems to have learned how to get what they want, yet Iwan can't get past everything that could go wrong. He knows who he is, regardless of labels. But no matter how often his best friend tells him to just go for it, he doesn’t trust others to see past his mismatched body.

Paying for what he’s afraid to get for free may seem absurd, but it’s better than just watching, and it’s better than porn. It may not change the world he lives in, but with luck, it will change him.


In some ways this is a very straight forward story while in others ways it's an intense yet slightly confusing look at a young man's journey to accepting his sexuality.  Along the way you find an atmospheric story with descriptive scenery and realistic language that easily immerses you and adds an intriguing layer to this young man's journey.

With the exception of Iwan, the small cast of characters are hard to feel connected to since they're not fully developed and we see them in a very peripheral way.  The glimpses of them are intriguing though and I desperately wanted to know more about them as they had a profound affect on Iwan's life.  As to Iwan, he seems so lost.  In a town with no opportunities and a dislike of homosexuals, he seemed to just be going through the motions with no hope for anything better since there's so much beyond his control.  Admitting his sexuality and acting on it IS something he can control and I admired him for finally acting on his long suppressed feelings.  His wonder with the big city of London and his eye opening, life changing moments there also endeared him to me as I applauded his bold step to proclaim the truth about himself.

The strongly and beautifully presented atmospheric visuals of life in a depressed small town will be forever stamped in my mind.  The attitudes and accents were realistic and added to my reading enjoyment as it was easy to lose myself in this world Elyan Smith created.  Amidst the bleakness of this town came the open-ended conclusion giving a hint of hopefulness that made for a satisfying ending.  With just a few small quibbles I still found this to be a thought provoking, highly emotional story that has me excited to see how this author's career evolves considering the great promise shown in this debut work.

My rating for this is a B-/C+

*I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. 

*You can purchase this book from the publisher HERE.

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