The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
The Great Lover is the fictionalised account of five years in the life of the poet Rupert Brooke. These are years during which Brooke published his first volume of poetry, had a nervous breakdown and an affair with a Polynesian woman on a South Sea island.
The viewpoint is shared between Rupert himself and Nell, a maid at a tea room in Grantchester who is in love with him. Actual letters and lines of poetry are cleverly woven into the narrative, though the character of Nell is entirely fictional.
Brooke emerges from the story as likeable but naive, obsessed with sex and confused about his sexuality, dominated by his mother and haunted by his elder brother's suicide. The pages that deal with his breakdown are extremely well done and utterly convincing.
It's a powerful book but painful at times, saved from becoming too dark by the strong, clear voice of Nell whose no-nonsense character is in such contrast to Rupert's but who cannot help being sucked into his inner darkness.