Loving Donovan : Book Review

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Loving Donovan
by Bernice L. McFadden
★★★✰✰ 3.5 stars

The title of this novel is somewhat misleading. While yes, there is plenty of love to be found within these pages, it is almost obscured by the many harrowing scenes that make up most of the novel.
McFadden’s writing is both direct and expressive which made her story all the more vivid. The narrative follows Campbell and Donovan from the childhood to their adulthood. Although we know from the prologue that these two characters will at some point meet and fall in love, most of the novel (say 60%) is focused on their ‘history’. In chronicling their lives McFadden also brings into the picture the lives of their families and friends. The novel presents us with two complex and layered families as well as with a community that is divided by love and hate. There is cheating, jealousies, prejudices, and an array of other things that make their way into these relationships.
While I was absorbed by these characters much of what happens to them is horrifying and not easy to read. Pedophilia and rape mark the lives of many of the characters, and we see just how traumatising their past experiences are and the effect they have in shaping the rest of their lives. While there were many moving and touching moments these were almost obscured by the brutalities that occur throughout the narrative.
I wish that we had seen more of the relationship between Campbell and Donovan. The last section of the novel seemed hurried, especially when compared to the rest of the story. The ending was somewhat unsatisfying and left me wanting more out of the whole thing.

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An English Literature graduate, currently completing a masters in Comparative Literature. Born in Rome, raised near Venice, currently in the UK. Queer (in both senses of the word).

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