The House on Brooke Street

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Mr. Page, the story’s fictitious narrator, was a callow young closeted homosexual in 1923, but was transformed by meeting Mr. Clive, a handsome aristocrat, and Clive’s gentleman’s gentleman. Clive audaciously picks Page up on the street and brings him to the house on Brooke Street, where the clerk witnesses a hedonistic lifestyle he had known only in fantasies. Gabriel, Clive’s sole remaining servant, is appropriately named because he has the beauty and bearing, if not the morals, of an angel. After becoming sexually intimate with both men, Page discovers that the masochistic master is really the servant and the proud, imperious servant is the real master.

Page also discovers that the mansion is an empty shell. Clive lives on borrowed money while spending extravagantly to deceive an army of creditors. When Clive flees England with Gabriel to avoid prosecution for fraud, auctioneers descend on the ruined establishment.

Page is writing his secret memoir in 1956. Although he still maintains the facade of a conservative department store clerk, he was transformed by his three-way love affair and exposure to the possibilities of uninhibited indulgence of forbidden desires. As a result he has managed to initiate one long-term homosexual love relationship as well as a brief encounter with a handsome American movie star, both of which he remembers with pride and satisfaction.

THE HOUSE ON BROOKE STREET, Neil Bartlett’s slow-paced second novel, is sometimes confusing because of its convoluted structure. The characters are well drawn, the style is occassionally absorbing, and Bartlett’s resurrection of the Victorian homosexual underworld makes the reader appreciate the understanding and tolerance that have evolved.