Title: This Is Not a Lie by S.C. Farrow
Publisher: Dixi Books Limited
Genre: Historical (80s), Gay, Literary
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
In 1984, St Kilda is the heart and soul of Melbourne’s thriving music scene. Joel Reed, a brilliant young guitarist and songwriter, followed his sister Karen to the bohemian beachside suburb to chase his dream of becoming a rock star. On the surface, it seems like Joel has got it all together. He’s in an up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll band and is surrounded by people who want to see him succeed. However, Joel is also a high-functioning heroin addict and closet homosexual. Desperately lonely and dangerously self-destructive, he hides his true self, lives a carefully constructed lie, lest he be discovered, outed, and shunned by the city’s legion of hard rock fans. When the band is forced to audition for a new frontman, Joel’s world is turned upside down. Harry Engel, offbeat, charming, and disarmingly charismatic, walks into the rehearsal room to audition and rocks Joel’s carefully constructed world. Joel’s never met anyone like him before – and it’s not long before he falls in love. However, there’s no way he can tell Harry how he feels. There’s no way he can’t tell anyone how he feels. He can’t do anything to jeopardise the band’s success. And so, he lives the carefully constructed lie – until tragedy strikes and threatens end Joel once and for all.
Taking place in Australia in 1984, This Is Not a Lie by S.C. Farrow is a captivating novel that is quite poignant.
In his early twenties, Joel Reed is the founder and lead guitarist of hard rock band The Blackhearts. After losing their lead singer, Harry Engel joins the band over the objections of Joel’s sister and band manager, Karen. With the opportunity to finally score a record deal, turmoil roils within the band as Joel wrestles with his feelings for Harry and his addiction to heroin. Karen is worried about the band’s future so she makes a decision she believes is in The Blackhearts’ best interest. The other band members are supportive of one another, but they have financial concerns as they practice long hours in hopes of finally reaching their goal of stardom.
Joel is willing to put in the hard work to make The Blackhearts a success. He is a little quick to anger and he can be stubborn. Although Joel knows he has to stay in the closet in order to achieve success, he uses heroin and alcohol to dull his pain. He has successfully managed to keep his desires under wraps, but his strong attraction to Harry is almost impossible to hide. And resist.
Harry is a charming, charismatic and gifted singer. He is also a very talented songwriter whose suggestions take the band’s songs to a whole new level. Harry is also drawn to Joel but he is haunted by the events that precipitated his move to Melbourne. His demons threaten to derail The Blackhearts shot at finally finding success.
Joel is deeply flawed with realistic issues that he refuses to talk about or deal with. His addiction to heroin is not glamorized but rather serves a reminder that many addicts are functional with families and careers. Joel’s pain is palpable as he struggles with hiding who he is in order to achieve success.
Full of heartbreak and hope, This Is Not a Lie is an emotional novel that is well-written with vibrantly developed characters. The subject matter is true to the time period and difficult topics are realistically handled with sensitivity. S.C. Farrow brings this compelling novel to a surprisingly upbeat conclusion. I absolutely loved and HIGHLY recommend this outstanding novel.