The Pretty Gentleman is a fantastic read. Painstakingly researched and beautiful in its evocations of a bygone era, its tale of passion, corruption and vengeance grips from the first page to the last.
As a Londoner myself, I found the insight into the city’s oppressive past both riveting and shocking. The secret happenings at The White Swan and the Royal Academy of Arts reveal a time when being different – in this case, homosexual – was the ultimate taboo. The suffocating setting lends Max Fincher’s novel a stifling, uneasy atmosphere – not least because much of what happens is grounded in fact.
The Pretty Gentleman isn’t just a work of fine historical drama, though. At its heart it’s a simple story about a young man with a modern outlook on life that clashes with the restrictive norms of 19th century society. George is a flawed, fascinating hero who you can’t help but root for. And in the harsh 1800s, his fate is never a sure thing.
Max Fincher has written a gripping historical thriller. Beautifully written, twanging with tension right from the beginning and containing some fascinating musings on art as a reflection of our own humanity, it’s a smart, addictive read. I can’t wait to see what he does next.