The raw honesty of Timothy Conigrave’s book Holding the Man made me weep when I finished reading it.
I rarely read non-fiction books because if something bad happens, I know it happened in real life, and it sits with me for days like a tumour. I had a feeling it was going to be the same thing when I finished this book. And it was.
But it was worth every tear. Timothy Conigrave wrote this tale of his love for John Caleo that lasted longer than a lot of relationships these days. From the beginning, you already expect them to meet difficulties, especially since this was the mid-seventies and they were both going to an all boys Catholic school.
Tim fell madly in love with John and his super long eyelashes, and they built a life together despite all the disapproval they faced from their families and society. The book will touch your heart. It will make you cry, it will make you laugh and it will arouse you.
You go through every single drama with them and connect with the people in the book as if you have known them for years. You get angry at the small-mindedness of society and the people they love who couldn’t accept them for who they were.
Tim and John’s love story is a classic. They wanted to be together but were forced apart by their families. Their love was deemed a scandal, unnatural, unacceptable. But it was pure and beautiful, like any classic love story.
You laugh and feel loved by the friends who surrounded them and supported them throughout the years. And you cry when both Tim and John find out they are HIV positive. He writes about what it was like being HIV positive in that era. The fear of dying, of losing the one you love, while trying to make a difference for others. Conigrave also writes about his efforts to help other gay men struggling with their own lives by putting their stories on stage, and creating more awareness about AIDS and the gay community.
Timothy writes about his experiences so well that it’s easy to find the joy in between the sorrows. He was talented and determined and although he went through a lot of difficulties you see the strength within him to soldier on.
This book is about love, friendship, passion, strength and resilience. Prepare to be touched.
Kristyn M. Levis is a freelance writer, author and photographer based in Sydney. She is currently the managing editor of Her Collective. Her first novel is set to be published this year.