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Holding the Man (1995)

by Timothy Conigrave

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262979,391 (4.07)3
The mid-seventies - and satin baggies and chunky platforms reigned supreme. Jethro Tull did battle with glam-rock for the airwaves. At an all-boys Catholic school in Melbourne, Timothy Conigrave fell wildly and sweetly in love with the captain of the football team. So began a relationship that was to last for 15 years, a love affair that weathered disapproval, separation and, ultimately death. Holding the Manrecreates that relationship. With honesty and insight it explores the highs and lows of any partnership- the intimacy, constraints, temptations. And the strength of heart both men had to find when they tested positive to HIV. This is a book as refreshing and uplifting as it is moving; a funny and sad and celebratory account of growing up gay.… (more)
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» See also 3 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Having watched the movie twice, I felt a desire to read the original book. Although the movie is strong, the book is infinitely better. The full details make for a more compelling, realistic narrative of a relationship between two men. They can be envied for having found one another at the age of fifteen, and although they endured growing pains, spent their final years where they belonged--together.

The road they traveled in as their AIDS progressed sounded too familiar. I especially appreciated how they spent no time seeking to blame one another for infecting the other. At least through Tim's eyes, John's love was pure and true almost since the moment they first met, for the next fifteen years. The reader will shed tears for the sad tragedy of their deaths, but some of those tears will be regret that they will probably never have experienced a bond as unquestioned as this. ( )
  dono421846 | Jan 26, 2019 |
This book is devastatingly beautiful, and was very difficult to get through on several levels.
This book served as a coming of age story, memoir, and love story all in one. What made the memoir so powerful, to me, was that Conigrave wrote so openly and honestly, and did not shy away from shining a light on his own flaws, infidelities, or unpopular thoughts during the course of his life discussed. Rather then painting himself a saint or a perfect partner, he wrote openly about the man he was, and the man he loved.
At the heart of the memoir though, is his love story with John Caleo, the man he would meet in high school and be with for 15 years. A love story, that ultimately ends in tragedy.
The last third of the book was the most difficult part for me, as Conigrave continues to lay everything bare, including all the un-pretty and grousome details of both his and John's battle wtih AIDS as well as John's eventual battle with cancer. He does not sugar coat, or leave out many of the details that are difficult to read about or imagine. This level of brutal openness made me have to put the book down often because while I appreciate his candidness in terms of telling his story, it tore at my heart and I found it draining me and depressing me. This, in itself, makes this a powerful read. It elicited physical and emotional responses from me.
Still, while this was difficult read, Conigrave was able to write a memoir that while clouded in sadness, felt somehow positive and uplifting, even in the final chapters. Through the sadness Conigrave expresses while watching the love of his life die, there is still a sense of beauty, as you are allowed witness to a man so in love, against all odds, and how beautiful love can be no matter the sexuality.
At its core, this was not only Conigrave's memoir, but Caleo's as well. What a beautiful love story, that touches on so many issues gay men faced and still face. ( )
  Kiddboyblue | Aug 8, 2018 |
DNF 42%

1.5 stars

I was looking for some nice, fluffy LGBT in order to lighten my mood, and when I read the blurb I thought:"This is the perfect book for me."
What a shame that it wasn't nice not fluffy at all.
Here 3 reasons why:

1) it's confusing.
In stories like this one writing in the 1st person narrator and with a diary-style can be a good choice... as long as the story remains understandable. Unfortunately this wasn't the case, since the narrator jumped from a scene to the other without even clearly signaling it.

2) the plot.
Well, it seems like there's none. At the beginning I thought I would follow the main character taking awareness of his homosexuality and trying to accept it, but in reality he simply "had fun" with almost all the guys he met. It was rather annoying because it wasn't at all about feelings but just sexual drives.

3) the characters.
As you can understand by the paragraph above, I simply can't stand the main character. Every time he presents a new male character he just uses words like "handsome", "hot", "cute" without even describing something about his personality. Moreover even the other characters are totally flat with no psychological analysis. They're just like the members of a male harem.
( )
  Shay17 | Mar 30, 2018 |
This books keeps you up, as the emotional flows from beginning through the end. Passion and love go around a story of a lifetime love that will get your feelings. ( )
  scaredda | Jan 5, 2018 |
Holding the Man is a touching and poignant memoir about growing up in Melbourne in the 60s and 70s, about one man's early exploration of his sexuality, and about falling in love with the boy who would become his partner for life — although sadly a life tragically cut short by AIDS. Both John and Tim tested positive at a time when the disease was only just beginning to be understood. John passed away in January 1992, and Tim a couple of years later.

I feel this book has some strong elements and a few weaknesses. It is incredibly honest and frank about sex and masturbation and desire, especially in young people discovering who they are and what they're attracted to. It might not be everyone's cup of tea (in fact, if you struggle with this kind of candidness, you probably won't get past page 20 or so), but it's not really pornographic or titillating, just upfront. As someone with many gay friends who haven't all had easy experiences, I suspect the refreshing honesty in this book makes it easy to relate to. And when Tim was young and went through a brief stage of having a girlfriend, it took me right back to being 14 and having a "boyfriend" who later confided that he was gay; I guess I was a small part of him trying to figure that all out, similar to Tim.

Another strength is in the portrayal of the gay community at the time AIDS and HIV first appeared, and how friendship groups supported one another through what must have been a very scary time. Meanwhile the media stirred up fear and panic and prejudice, but for those personally affected by illness and losing loved ones, it's clear that many took comfort and strength from the relationships they'd built in their communities and support networks. It was just really touching to read about how many people loved this beautiful couple.

Ultimately what stops me giving the book 4 or 5 stars is the writing; in the hands of a better writer I think the prose could have been a lot more polished, less bland, less "then this happened, then this happened, etc." But perhaps I'm being unfair — the book was finished not long before Tim himself died, so perhaps it was a race against time to tell his story. As other people have commented, Tim doesn't always seem like he would have been the nicest partner to John: sometimes insensitive, occasionally too honest, not that easy to live with. On the other hand, that's probably all of us, at least some of the time. In spite of whatever failings Tim may have had, this is a worthwhile and important story that I hope remains widely read. ( )
  pilgrimess | Mar 1, 2017 |
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Life is nothing if not change.
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my friend Laura
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At the end of the sixties the world seemed very exciting for a nine-year-old.
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Penguin Group (Australia) 2015
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The mid-seventies - and satin baggies and chunky platforms reigned supreme. Jethro Tull did battle with glam-rock for the airwaves. At an all-boys Catholic school in Melbourne, Timothy Conigrave fell wildly and sweetly in love with the captain of the football team. So began a relationship that was to last for 15 years, a love affair that weathered disapproval, separation and, ultimately death. Holding the Manrecreates that relationship. With honesty and insight it explores the highs and lows of any partnership- the intimacy, constraints, temptations. And the strength of heart both men had to find when they tested positive to HIV. This is a book as refreshing and uplifting as it is moving; a funny and sad and celebratory account of growing up gay.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140257845, 0143202820

 

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