Address Book by Neil Bartlett - review by Jude Cook

Jude Cook

Gay’s the Word

Address Book


Inkandescent 245pp £9.99

This collection of loosely linked short stories from theatre director, activist and Costa Prize-shortlisted author Neil Bartlett chronicles queer lives across a century and a half, with seven juxtaposed voices effortlessly articulating grief, joy and incomprehension at love’s caprices. With most of the stories bearing the title of a London address, the book is a paean to a cityscape that constantly remakes itself while keeping its secrets. In ‘14 Yeomans Mews’, a doctor looks back on a three-decade affair with a classical musician while moving house: ‘He got to watch me grow up … we all have places that we need to revisit in our lives … in order to remind ourselves how the hell we got from there to here.’ The same doctor makes a fleeting appearance in the next tale, in which a drily comic hardcore clubber documents the homophobia and mortal fear that swept through the gay community as AIDS took hold in the 1980s.

Elsewhere, Bartlett’s range is demonstrated by a story set in the 1890s and another, ‘203 Camden Road’, in which a conventional pregnant wife encounters a gay neighbour. Set in 1966, the year before the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in England, the expectant mother’s changing attitudes seem emblematic of

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