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ARC Book Review: Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

Title: Rainbow Milk

Author: Paul Mendez

Length: 384 pages

Publisher: Dialogue Books

You know when you have high expectations for a book and it surpasses them. That’s what did Rainbow Milk.

Synopsis: In the Black Country in the 1950s, ex-boxer Norman Alonso is a determined and humble Jamaican who has moved to Britain with is wife to secure a brighter future for themselves and their children. Blighted who unexpected illness and racism, Norman and his family are resilient in the face of such hostilities, but are all too aware that they will need more than just hope to survive. At the turn of the millennium, Jesse seeks a fresh start in London – escaping from a broken immediate family, a repressive religious community and the desolate, disempowered Black County – but finds himself at a loss for a new centre of gravity, and turns to sex work to create new notions of love, fatherhood and spirituality.

It’s starts of with Robert, a Jamaican man and his wife, moving to Britain in the 50s, where they hope for a better life, but have to deal with racism. The story then moves onto Jesse, a young Jehovah Witness, who leaves his family behind for a new life in London.

I’m just going to start by saying that my review will never do this book justice, so just go out and by it already. I had pretty high expectations going into this and it surpassed them. It really was everything I wanted it to be and more. I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

The novel just works as a whole. Every element on its own is sublime and it all comes together cohesively. It’s got a fantastic story, fantastic writing and fantastic characters. Every part is fantastic. Can you tell I love this book?

Jesse, a young gay black man, is a wonderful character to follow. Paul creates such depth, his portrayal of him will absolutely break your heart, but I do believe it will be put back together again. In terms of his sexuality, it’s so well done. Paul perfectly captures the fine line of acceptance/ hating yourself. Jesse goes on such a journey. Paul captures his confusion over everything in his life brilliantly. You just become so invested in his life. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a character that captures your heart. Jesse is character I won’t forget for a long time.

Most books just tackle one subject, but this book tackles race, religion and sexuality and intertwines them all fantastically. There’s just so much inside this book. It deals with some harrowing things. It also deals with parts of British history that are often forgotten about. Racism that happened (and still does) that just seems to be ignored and it’s heartbreaking and infuriating. But it’s what makes the novel so special. I don’t want to say to much, because I want you to read it and just be blown away by the depth of this novel.

I also loved, loved how the two stories connected. I was worried that was going to be a bit of a let down but it really wasn’t. It ties the novel together perfectly. It gives Jesse some real clarity and the story. The book is just so bold and fresh. It tackles the exploration of finding ones self and the world around.

This is Paul’s debut novel and a debut it is. It’s moving, delicate and assured. What a talent. He’ll capture your heart with this book. I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s one of those books that I’m just grateful to have read. It’s one of the Observer’s top ten 2020 debuts and I can totally see why. Paul is a writer that I’ll definitely be looking out for in the future.

Easily my favourite novel of the year, I know it’s only April but it’s going to be hard to beat. I want it nominated for every prize. I’d to love to see it on the Booker prize list. I just don’t think novels come along like this very often. It’s the queer novel I’ve been waiting a long time for.

Again, I haven’t done the book justice.

Thank you Millie at Dialogue Books for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

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