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Teenage dreams

Along the way it takes in events such as teenage rebellion, family turmoil, sexual awakening, and the pursuit of personal and professional dreams”

Christodora by Tim Murphy Out 23rd February (Picador)

This ambitious novel chronicles the lives of various members of a family and those close to them in the New York of the early ’80s through to the near future. The action takes place all over the city (with some scenes set in LA) but always comes back to the Christodora apartment block that gives the novel its title. Murphy’s characters are fresh and complex, and, as he follows the ebb and flow of the relationships between them, he explores subjects such as the idealism and self-absorption of youth, the emotional vulnerability that can lead to addiction, the feeling of displacement for a Latino child adopted by white parents, and the fear experienced by someone growing up under the spectre of hereditary mental illness. But where he really excels is in evoking the despair, panic and anger that swept the city as HIV/AIDS was discovered and developed into an epidemic. This isn’t a perfect book – there’s the occasional hole in the plot and an over-reliance on coincidence – but it’s intelligent and absorbing, ingeniously structured and steeped in the deepest empathy. Although epic in scope, ultimately it’s about loneliness and the struggle to find love, accept love and to arrive at a state of self-love. A tremendous achievement.

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