Stephanie Bishop is a lecturer in creative writing at the University of New South Wales. Her new novel is The Other Side of the World.
In the midst of World War Two, the young David Sparsholt arrives at Oxford like some bright Adonis, “as if shaped from light himself”. He is first spotted through a window, just before blackout, by a group of students gathered in a college room. Sparsholt is lifting weights, the friends secretly admiring his “glorious head, like a Roman gladiator” and the “blue veins standing in the upper arms”. In the tense atmosphere of “near-readiness for action”, Sparsholt quickly becomes a figure of intrigue and desire. Although engaged, he falls into an affair with a male student.
This opening episode is narrated in the first person by one of those who saw Sparsholt through the window, and while we expect this situation to develop, the narrative instead jumps ahead, landing us in a Cornish summer almost two decades later. Sparsholt is married and father to the adolescent Johnny, whose...
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