This year, the Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) is celebrating the 50 books that made it into Round Two with a mini spotlight blitz tour for each title. BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner.
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Title: A Particular Friendship
Author: Paul Van der Spiegel
Publisher: Perceptions Press
Length: 225 Pages
Genres: LGBTQ+, Religion, General Fiction
Age Category: (New) Adult
Date Published: November 28, 2021
A Particular Friendship is a story about a gay Catholic priest coming to terms with his sexuality. The story has two timelines. In the odd-numbered chapters we meet Tom, an isolated fifty-year old parish priest of St. James’ church, a Jesuit-built church in a northern English town. Tom is an in-the-closet gay man inside the Catholic Church, an organisation that defines homosexuality as inherently disordered. Antony, the only man Tom has ever fallen in love with, the man he abandoned thirty-years earlier, comes back into his life and asks Tom to provide the Sacrament of the Sick to his dying mother.
In the second timeline, the even numbered chapters, we see Tom from childhood through to his ordination as a priest. As he grows into adolescence the confusion begins: he has experiences with girls, as well as burgeoning romantic and sexual feelings for his friend, Antony. After Tom and Antony sleep together for the first time, as the pressure to conform to a heterosexual society reaches fever-pitch, Tom abandons his lover and flees to the Church. At Ash Burrow seminary, Tom finds acceptance, and other gay men like himself.
The story follows Tom’s emotional collapse and the deterioration of his mental health until he reaches the point where he is actively suicidal. In contrast, we see Tom’s teenage-self approaching life with a sense of potential. After Tom is sacked and St. James’ church is closed, he confronts the violent sexual assault he suffered whilst a seminarian at Ash Burrow – and the perpetrator, Derek Worrell, who is now the Bishop of Preston.
Paul Van der Spiegel is the author of four books: Trans Deus, 7 Minutes, Parably Not (an Illuminated book), and A Particular Friendship. He loves great company, great stories, great art, and if he can reflect any of that wisdom back in his own work, he will die happy. His interest is in the intersection of sexuality and faith, the compatibility of LGBTQIA+ love and trust in love as meta-meaning. He adores non-conformist literature, quirky tunes, dissenting art that makes you think. His heroes are William Blake, Susan Cooper, Philip K Dick, Goya, Kristin Hersh, JG Ballard, to name but a few.