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The Great Believers


Product Description

A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris.

'Stirring, spellbinding and full of life' Tea Obreht, New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger's Wife

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup: bringing an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDs epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico's funeral, he finds his partner is infected, and that he might even have the virus himself. The only person he has left is Fiona, Nico's little sister.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago epidemic, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways the AIDS crisis affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. Yale and Fiona's stories unfold in incredibly moving and sometimes surprising ways, as both struggle to find goodness in the face of disaster.

Author: Rebecca Makkai

Paperback, 432 Pages, Published 2018

Recommended by Graeme Aitken

"You might think that you really don’t want to read a 400+ page novel about the early years of the AIDS crisis in Chicago, but in fact the book proves to be something of a page-turner. This is due to the vivid, complex characters that Makkai has created who quickly capture the reader’s interest. While the other great strengths of the novel is that it doesn’t take the predictable or sentimental narrative path. Your expectations are aroused but then Makkai surprises you, and sometimes to devastating effect. After all this is a period when life for gay men was fraught with uncertainties and was all too precarious. The novel has two narrative strands - one set in 1985 and based around Yale Gishman, as his circle of friends begins to be felled by the virus, while a cache of 1920s paintings offer the prospect of a great triumph for his career at an art gallery. The second strand centres around a close friend of Yale’s, Fiona, who lost her brother to the virus, but thirty years later has also lost her daughter to a cult. Until a sighting in Paris sends Fiona there to try to track her down and reestablish contact. Several characters straddle both narratives and though sometimes with this type of structure one storyline can end up being more compelling than the other. Yet here, the chapters alternate and this lessens this problem but also drives the narrative towards a double climax. This is one of the best gay-themed novels published so far this year, and if you don’t believe me, it has also had glowing endorsements from writers Garth Greenwell, Stephen McCauley, and Rabih Alameddine."


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