Please summarize The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse is almost six hundred sonnets in length, all written in iambic tetrameter!  Essentially, though, it is a story about John Brown.

John Brown is a computer engineer in the 1980s who is lonely.  After complaining to his ex-girlfriend, Janet, a personal ad is set up.  Here is the description of John Brown from the Bay Guardian:

Well-rounded and well-meaning square

Lusting for love. ...

This catches the attention of Liz Dorati and the two begin a passionate love affair. (At this point John's only lament is that he hates Liz's cat named Charlemagne.) It is at this point that Phil Weiss, John Brown's friend from the past, meets Liz's brother named Ed. Phil and Ed become infatuated with each other and ALSO begin a passionate love affair, but it is short lived and ends in a physical fight! Phil eventually pleads with Ed not to feel guilt about their love.

Unfortunately, the breakup of Phil and Ed is followed by the downward spiral of Liz and John. On Thanksgiving, Liz begins to question if a commitment to John is really what her life should hold. At the same moment that Liz learns her mom has cancer, John illicitly reads Liz's mail and sees a letter from Phil indicating that it is Phil and Liz that are really in love. John immediately becomes jealous and dismayed as he packs to leave. 

Phil and Liz get married while John struggles to find love again with Jan. It is a much colder relationship, but still tragic when Jan dies in a car accident. 

In life's brief game to be a winner
A man must have...oh yes, above
All else, of course, someone to love.

After losing his latest love, and with his life going to hell, John just lets himself go (along with his house and yard).  In this element of despair, John gets the birth announcement from Phil and Liz. They have a little boy that they have named John. John calls Phil and Liz in tears for their homage to him.

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The Golden Gate

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