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Brilliant new book ‘One Love’ explores growing up gay in Manchester

Matt Cain's fabulous new book, 'One Love' explores growing up in Manchester's LGBTQ+ community.
Matt Cain

This beautiful new novel is the book that Bolton-born writer Matt Cain always wanted to write.

It has been ruminating in his head and in draft form for 20 years and he has been revisiting it, as he now has the benefit of hindsight and key moments from queer history which he has managed to incorporate.

Matt Cain

One Love is a big-scale novel which covers two decades in the lives of two gay men who meet at Manchester University.

Danny has come to learn more about who he is, as he is sick of hiding in the closet and wants to meet like-minded people he sees this as year one for him, in terms of his life is just beginning.

Guy is more sporty and self-assured but the two men realise they connect when they meet at the Fresher’s Fair.

Like When Harry Met Sally and One Day, we are invited to see whether these two friends can be more than pals, or whether S-E-X gets in the way and ruins everything.

But there is way more going on here, as the writer has lived much of this life, so interspersed in the drama, poignant moments and comedy is an exploration of being queer in the UK.

Have things improved as much as we are told they have? Do gay men feel pressure to conform to a stereotype?

When Civil partnerships and adoption become a reality, is it groundbreaking and empowering, or does it feel like you are being pulled into a world you are not yet ready for, following years of living in the shadows?

Manchester’s amazing LGBTQ+ scene

And there is a major third character within this beautifully drawn novel, and that is Manchester.

From Canal Street at chucking out time and a cheeky visit to McTucky’s through to the development of the Northern Quarter and nods and winks to some places which are now part of our past, such as the much loved Library Theatre and Cornerhouse three-screen cinema.

In terms of the non-linear timeline, we jump from past to present, so that we can begin to make links between the protagonist’s lives as students, when Manchester was their oyster through to now, as they return to the Gay Village to celebrate Manchester Pride and look back, to look forward.

Canal street’s secrets

For Danny, he has been keeping a secret and it is about to spill out onto Canal Street.

Is it a new beginning for these two friends, who have shared so much, or is it the end of two decades of undying loyalty, whatever obstacles have been put in their way?

The surprising thing about this epic tale is just how much of it will resonate with you if you are either the same age as the protagonists or older.

One big coming-out scene involving a letter that does not arrive on time, is heartbreaking, as it will feel so familiar to many.

The tropes of “You will end up lonely” or that this is a “phase” will remind so many readers of what they were simply expected to put up with, fighting for acceptance and almost begging friends and relatives to see them as equal, yet at the same time – different.

The dialogue during this dramatic and familiar scene stings like tears on a sunburned face.

A book filled with optimism

But this is a book which never portrays gay men as victims or wallows in miserabilism, it is upbeat, optimistic, and celebrates how this beautiful city is filled with people who have found logical families when their biological ones have either turned their backs on them, or they have taken a break to find their people.

The honesty here is welcome, as nothing is diluted or sugar-coated.

What you see is what you get and we also see how the queer community can turn on each other, leaving some feeling quite lonely and alienated and judged by other people’s standards of how they should live.

But at the heart of this book, is a beautiful story of friendship over two decades and how it takes a ‘village’ to bring up a young gay man and shape them into who they are.

One Love by Matt Cain is out now on hardback, audio and e-book and you can buy a signed copy here

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