The universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and — most of all — himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people's expectations.
Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn't the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it's like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.
But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can't see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn't trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn't believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
Pseudointellectualism meets gay romance in Hall's debut. Self-absorbed British writer Ash Winters is a young man struggling with bipolar disorder and the aftermath of a suicide attempt. His perceptions of himself and others evolve quickly as he develops a relationship with fashion model Darian Taylor. Under Darian's influence, the former hermit slowly returns to a more social state. The stock romance is enlivened with the occasional bits of dark humor and beautifully risqu moments, interspersed with an overabundance of mental illness details. The juxtaposition of unlikable Ash's literary and intellectual viewpoints with Darian's superficial lifestyle (and painfully rendered Essex accent: "You'll do ahwight, janarwhatamean?") is cleverly used to spotlight the propagation of relationship stereotypes, but the unlikely and unexpectedly charming pairing of Darian and Ash, and the resultant drama of their worlds colliding, eclipses development of other characters leaving them mere set decoration to prop up the two leads.
Truly a lovely story. These two men are EXACTLY what the other needs. I loved their characters and I totally loved their story.