I read this (well, apart from the fact that it was on a 99p Kindle offer) partly in honour of the forthcoming Manchester Pride weekend (although the stupid virus has put the kibosh on most of it), and partly (the author being almost exactly the same age as me) as an excuse for a big nostalgia fest about growing up in the North West in the ’80s and early ’90s … never missing an episode of either Coronation Street or Dynasty, reading teen pop magazines, and wearing hooded tops, telling everyone you were obsessed with Madchester music, and hoping that no-one would ever, ever call you either a stiff or a townie. My entire class once wasted half a Latin lesson discussing how uncool it was to be a townie. I have no idea why the teacher let us do this.
It’s a novel, but based closely on the author’s own experiences of growing up as a young gay man in Bolton, the issues he faced, and his obsession with Madonna. How big was Madonna in the ’80s?! I remember going round to my then best friend’s house for tea on the day that the Like A Prayer video was shown on TV in the UK for the first time, and it was *such* a big deal! He rather overplays the northern working-class stereotypes; the fact that the book’s written in the present tense is a bit annoying; and the Madonna thing comes and goes rather than being the central theme as the title suggests; but it’s very thoughtfully-written and genuinely moving.
We see how our main man, Charlie (aka Matt) struggles badly due to being bullied at school, and how he feels that he doesn’t fit in either there or at home. But we’re told that he finds that going to the gay bars and clubs in Canal Street (the heart of the Gay Village in Manchester) makes life a lot easier, which is rather lovely. We try to be a welcoming city where everyone can be themselves ❤ . Then we see him go off to university … and then move to London, which is a shame, as I thought the book was going to be set in Bolton.
His life gets in a complete mess, as he struggles to find his place in the world, but it all works out in the end It could really have done with being a bit longer, to explain it all properly, but it all works out in the end. And, when he finally meets Mr Right and they get married, the ceremony takes place at Bolton Town Hall and not in London. Hooray! And – see what I mean about overdoing the stereotypes?! – they even have Lancashire hotpot at the reception. This is a really lovely book, and, especially if you can get it on the 99p deal, it’s well worth reading.