As I like both Historical Fiction and Oscar Wilde this book immediately interested me. I was not disappointed.
Some of the other reviews have concentrated on the lesbian/gay aspect of this book. I don’t see this as the objective of the story. For me it is the struggle of people who are different against the prejudices of society. Prejudices that unfortunately society still holds today. Race, religion and sexual preferences are all brought into this touching story. The gossip and rumour of a small town forms a focus of irrational hatred fired by one strong and severely bigoted individual. Rising from this are stories of enduring love and friendship.
It is set in a small town in Nevada where the world’s news is brought in through the telegraph office, the centre of gossip and congregation. I have never been to Nevada but the descriptions are vivid enough for me to be able to picture this town, its people, their lives and costumes of that period. The characterisations are also vivid. I hated them; I wanted to slap several of them. I cried with some of them, feeling their grief and I empathised with those that were persecuted.
Mahurin peppers this fictional story with factual history of the time through the means of the telegraph office. Stories of Oscar Wilde, the Atlanta Address, Alfred Dreyfus and other religious and political scandals of the day. Each event serves to fuel the hatred of the bigots in this small town.
The main story, that of the generous Mildred and her cousin Edra is beautifully written. Mildred’s scheme to hide her relationship has some very unexpected results, one of them terrible. I won’t spoil the story for you. It is compelling reading on many different levels and enhanced by a pertinent quotation from Oscar Wilde at the beginning of each chapter.