★★★★ | Gay Life Stories
A book about gay and lesbian history could easily be a dark and painful read. It would be a huge understatement to say that the LGBT community haven’t had an easy ride throughout world history and a retrospective of people’s stories could be depressing and bleak.
Robert Aldrich, a professor of European History, has, however, managed to produce a compendium of a selection of fascinating life stories that is often inspirational and joyful to read.
The book is beautifully presented with paintings, drawings and reproduced archival documents. Aldrich has chosen key figures from history including figures from the art, politics and literature amongst many others.
The range is comprehensive and sometimes surprising. The figures described range from the ancient world to the twentieth century and from the well-known to the more obscure. Each chosen historical figure gets a short but comprehensive and well-written chapter. Aldrich outlines the stories of over 80 figures in 289 pages.
There’s such a wide range of people in the book from the expected and well-known (Frederick the Great, Harvey Milk and Michelangelo) to the less well documented (the first man to be burned at the stake for sodomy, for example).
It’s not a book that is easy to sit and read cover to cover but one that you’re more likely to dip in and out of.
Depending on your interests then some of the sections will vie for your attentions more than others but Aldrich’s skill is to make each story feel relevant and a part of the rich history of gay and lesbian culture. This is a must read for any LGBT person.
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.