Holding the Man

I arrived at this book by a roundabout route.  I heard the title first as a play being put on in London.  I wanted to go to see it but couldn’t but I was interested in the subject matter and was keen to know more.  I ordered the play script and read that first.  At this point I discovered that the play was based on the book and, only then, did I get a copy and read it.

The book by Timothy Conigrave is a memoir of his life with his lover and long-term partner John Caleo.  They met at secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. John was a talented football player and the title is a term from Australian rules football which refers to a fault which results in a penalty. It is an appropriate title since their love and happiness is affected when they are both diagnosed with HIV.

The book covers their story of meeting at school, falling in love, growing up and moving in together.  It then details the lengths Tim goes to nurse John and keep him alive.  This section of the book is the most harrowing since the end seems to be inevitable and the effect this has on two people who love each other deeply is hard to read.  The final passages of the book when a bereaved Tim remembers his lover are the hardest of all.

Yet, this is also a book about the triumph of love.  Love is where it falls.  The couple do not have an easy time of it in a society which was often censorious about gay relationships.

John died in 1992 and three years later, just after finishing this book, Tim died. The book was turned into a play by Tommy Murphy.  This was the play that I heard about and the start of the trail that led me to the book.  I am so glad it did.

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2 thoughts on “Holding the Man

  1. I read this book last year and fell in love with it! The gruesome part of AIDS and how their love struggles in the middle of them brought me to tears. A book that has stayed with me ever since!

    • I heard that a documentary called ‘Remembering the Man’ was made in Australia and released last year. I am waiting to see if it gets a release in Britain.

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