Member Reviews

The risk with requesting a book before reviews come out is that sometimes you don’t know how graphic it might be until the reviews start pouring in. That’s what happened with this book for me unfortunately. After requesting it, I saw several reviews about the content being quite graphic and decided to steer away from it.
Leaving a five star here because I don’t want it to affect the book in any way - just a gut feeling that the content may be too graphic for me.

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Such a powerful book.
It explores race, sexuality and religion
It covers some very difficult topics which are handled well
The story is told over two timelines and the ending is well done

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Due to a sudden, unexpected passing in the family a few years ago and another more recently and my subsequent (mental) health issues stemming from that, I was unable to download this book in time to review it before it was archived as I did not visit this site for several years after the bereavements. This meant I didn't read or venture onto netgalley for years as not only did it remind me of that person as they shared my passion for reading, but I also struggled to maintain interest in anything due to overwhelming depression. I was therefore unable to download this title in time and so I couldn't give a review as it wasn't successfully acquired before it was archived. The second issue that has happened with some of my other books is that I had them downloaded to one particular device and said device is now defunct, so I have no access to those books anymore, sadly.

This means I can't leave an accurate reflection of my feelings towards the book as I am unable to read it now and so I am leaving a message of explanation instead. I am now back to reading and reviewing full time as once considerable time had passed I have found that books have been helping me significantly in terms of my mindset and mental health - this was after having no interest in anything for quite a number of years after the passings. Anything requested and approved will be read and a review written and posted to Amazon (where I am a Hall of Famer & Top Reviewer), Goodreads (where I have several thousand friends and the same amount who follow my reviews) and Waterstones (or Barnes & Noble if the publisher is American based). Thank you for the opportunity and apologies for the inconvenience.

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Brilliant and heart-wrenching; a much-needed addition to the LGBT canon of literature. The writing stumbled in places, but it was easy to overlook that as the voice was laden with emotion.

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I'm not sure how I feel about this book. Rainbow Milk is such a raw read. Mendez absolutely transported me into the mind of Jesse, and the book read like I was experiencing everything right there by his side. It is exquisitely written, so much so that it's almost heartbreakingly beautiful. The first half of the book completely captured my imagination and I'm astonished that such an intense debut exists.

However - I have not given this book five stars because the last 100 pages have nothing on the first 300 (approx.). This was a real shame because I felt like the ending could have been powerful and poignant; instead, it kind of just flopped. Everything had suddenly resolved itself, and we were not able to witness the journey from A to B. It felt like I had been journeying alongside Jesse - and then we're suddenly just cut off, returned 15-ish years later to a much more settled life. And whilst that feels great because of how turbulant Jesse's early adulthood was, it was disappointing not being able to read it first hand. I would have preferred an extra 100 pages if I could have read more about those 15 years.

Nevertheless - Rainbow Milk is a truly breathtaking novel and debut. I would strongly recommend it to anyone seeking black, queer literature, and I cannot wait to see what Mendez does next.

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“It’s not your fault, you know. It’s because you’ve been taught that God is a white man, and that white men are the earthly embodiment of God. You’ve been taught to worship white men and to hold everything that they represent, everything they own, as the dearest, most important, most sacred thing in your life. That’s why you love their smiles, their skin, their beauty, their voices, their words, their sex. You’ve been trained to hate yourself and love and desire them”
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Rainbow Milk • Paul Mendez
• book 32 - 2020 •
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This book was candid, raw and at times tragic. An exploration of the way white people fetishise black culture and people of colour, but fail to see them as equals in society. You truly feel for the lead character of Jesse and the journey he goes on. It raised some interesting things that I haven’t really thought of before. Be that white privilege or lives lived that are previously unexplored. I was truly rooting for Jesse to find his people, and to find his peace.
My only complaint with the book is that I felt that in some places it didn’t flow well, and at times it felt like there was a lot of information that didn’t really serve the overall story. I’m grateful to be able to read books like this however, that reflect the lives of someone who’s experiences are far different from the voices we’ve heard time and again. I feel like Paul Mendez has a lot of important things to say.

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I was surprised how much I ended up living this book about Jesse - a Black, disfellowshipped Jehovah's Witness, trying to figure out who he is and where he came from.
Sensitive, fascinating and well-crafted, I can see why it's getting so much positive attention.

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I wanted to love this so much but in all honesty I didn’t. I didn’t hate it at all but my high expectations weren’t met at all.

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Seldom written about, it was amazing to read about about the themes so elaborately portrayed in Rainbow Milk. Mendez is an incredible storyteller and I can’t recommend this enough.

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Rainbow Milk is a coming-of-age story, a raw and unfiltered look at race and religion, sex and sexuality in modern Britain.

The novel begins with a Windrush Generation couple migrating to the UK in the 1950s. This thread quickly gives way to the story of teenaged Jesse in the 2000s. Black, gay and shunned by his religious family, Jesse runs away to London, turning to sex work and drifting until eventually finding meaningful connections, and uncovering his family history.

Rainbow Milk is a fictionalised autobiography, with the author sharing some deeply personal and difficult experiences through ‘Jesse’. As a novel, it just didn’t work for me: I found the prose style very flat, the narrative padded with extraneous details, the overall pacing and structure confused. The opening chapter set in the fifties was the strongest part, almost a standalone short story in its own right.

There are some vibrant flashes throughout, two or three scenes in Jesse’s life that pack a real emotional punch, but their power is diluted by the rambling, mundane episodes that surround them. Jesse is a captivating character with a moving story. For me, this simply was not well-executed enough as a piece of literature.

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This isn’t the usual genre I would choose but was pleasantly surprised .
The story was intense at times and I found myself wanting to turn the page to see what happened .
Beautifully written and would recommend but found reading it through the story tellers accent was hard work at time’s.

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Rainbow Milk is a a semi-autobiographical coming of age novel about Jesse moving from the Black Country to escape his strict Jehovahs Witness family who had disowned him when finding out he was gay. It has some excellent passages with themes including fascism, religion, tolerance and sexuality.
The story begins in the 1950’s with Norman coming to England from Jamaica to, what he hoped would be, a better life. He faces the racism and an uphill struggle to support his family.
We then jump to the turn of the millennium with Jesse arriving in London and find that although there have been many changes in society it is still an uphill struggle for a young black man. Jesse is escaping his repressive family but he is full of self loathing and ends up as a sex worker, satisfying the needs of older white men, struggling to find a relationship.
The section where Jesse Spends Christmas with his friend Owen, after the consumption of a lot of drugs and alcohol he opens up to him, whilst Owen plays and analyses Joy Division and Public Image Ltd tracks, is emotional and beautifully written.
Racism, homophobia, intolerance should be consigned to history but, as this novel points out there is still a long way to go and since ‘that’ vote in 2016 there has been a rise in hate crimes with some people believing it gives them the right to air their racist and homophobic views.
Rainbow Milk is a great debut and an important novel.

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DNF at 20%. There was a lot I liked about this book - the way dialect and accent was portrayed through the speech to highlight differences between charaters. I liked the honesty of Norman's character, the truth of how lighter skinned black people were 'accepted' in society. However... I wasn't compelled by Norman's section of the book. And if the book is going to carry one switching perspectives... idk it felt too long to get to Jesse's and that couldn't hook me after I lost interest.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.

This book was amazing. It drew me in from the first chapter and after that I just couldn't stop reading. The exploration of all the issues was done so sensitively that you could tell it was based on personal experience. Jesse is an engaging protagonist and the narrative was flawless - I haven't loved another book so much since reading Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other last year (both books have similar themes of belonging, family and the exploration of black British identity). It was also lovely to hear the Black Country burr coming through so effectively in the writing. This is an important book and I can't wait to see what Mendez does next.

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What a debut wow. I went in purposely not knowing anything about the book, I was drawn by the description on NetGalley but apart from that I went in without expectations.
I was blown away by the characters, the depth of them, the storytelling is excellent. Paul does not shy away from detail, we're right there with Jesse - be it door to door or facing his lover intimately.
Jesse's story is soundtracked and if you take a moment to listen to the songs to set the scene it adds that extra level.
Paul Mendez has done a fantastic job with Rainbow Milk - I cannot wait to read what he does next.

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Rainbow Milk is a rather beautiful novel, that looks into a forgotten part of British heritage. It starts by focusing on married couple Norman and Claudette, who travel from Jamaica in the 1950s to start a new life in the West Midlands with their children Glorie and Robert. It's not the idyllic life they dreamed of however, as racial discrimination is incredibly prevalent throughout the area they find themselves living in. Couple this with social poverty and other working class problems, and we find Norman’s family struggling to keep hold of their Jamaican heritage while trying to immerse themselves in a new culture that’s full of prejudice.

Alongside Norman’s story is that of Jesse’s, a teenager born into a strict Jehovah’s Witness household in the early 2000s. Isolated from the wider world, Jesse is an avid follower of the religion – until a chance encounter with a fellow teenager introduces him to smoking, parties and sex. This discovery soon open’s Jesse’s eyes to what he’s been missing out on, as the reader watches him slowly spiral out of control.

I definitely found myself drawn more to Norman’s story, and was disappointed that this seemed to be overshadowed by Jesse’s as we moved further into the novel. Norman seems to be more of an afterthought as his story is largely unlinked to Jesse’s, and his narrative is left largely unanswered – which I found disappointing. The conclusion would have been a lot more impactful if there had been more of an intertwining of the two stories.

With Jesse, we have a character who is deeply complex and I enjoyed going on this journey with him and seeing his overall character arc. For someone who had such a sheltered upbringing, he is thrown right into the deep end when forced to leave his home and strict family behind for the racy lights of London. There are some rather graphic sexual scenes involved as Jesse becomes immersed in the red lights of London’s underworld but I never thought they were particularly gratuitous. Instead I found it quite insightful to see these aspects of life through an individual with such a vastly different outlook on life to myself. I felt completely immersed in Jesse’s world and all of the (sometimes reckless) experiences he has. This was further enhanced by the author’s use of Jamaican patois, which I really enjoyed. All of this helped me really connect to Jesse, and I felt for him. I desperately wanted him to find himself, and find his happy ending.

At times I did think that the story itself is a little on the long side, and some editing could have been utilities to cut down on the excessive descriptions of art etc. as this quite often slowed the overall pacing of the book and at times dragged the quality of the writing down. It also sometimes jumped me out of the narrative, as I found myself wondering just how many descriptions of poems and paintings we really needed to get a point across.

An interesting ‘coming of age’ story with hints of a forgotten British heritage, these feels fresh and unique – but it also rambles for too long and hints at pretention at times. I’ll certainly look out for more novels by Paul Mendez in the future.

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The only way for me to begin is by saying one word: wow. I absolutely loved 'Rainbow Milk'.

Mendez's debut starts off focusing on Norman and Claudette, a couple who move from Jamaica in the 1950s and set up home in the West Midlands; Robert and Glorie, their children, follow soon after. It's a turbulent time; racism is rife; they struggle to hold on to their Jamaican culture while immersing themselves into the working class, predominantly white area in which they find themeselves.

Soon, the novel skips forward in time - to the early 2000s where the focus is not on Norman and Claudette but on Jesse, a teenager on the brink of manhood who has grown up in a devout Jehovah Witness family. Jesse is devoted to the Jehovahs. He believes in their meetings, the assignation of Brothers and Sisters, not drinking alcohol, not smoking. That is until he meets a boy, a fellow JW, and together they get drunk and smoke cigarettes in a partly-finished, abandoned-in-the-evening building. What follows is the beginning of the end for this stage of Jesse's life.

Mendez's prose, which is extremely closely related to his own upbringing, is superbly executed. He writes in a Jamaican patois, where relevant; he communicates accents phonetically, immersing the reader into the world he finds himself in - particularly when Jesse is forced, pretty much, to leave his home, his family, his religion - and he heads to London, away from the Jehovah Witnesses, his oppressive mother, his stepfather and the community where his reputation has been ruined.

This novel is quite graphic and some might find it sexually gratuitous - but I think this is important as a form of catharsis for Jesse, and possibly for the writer, too. Mendez, like his protagonist Jesse, is gay. He realises this in his teens which is the final straw for his family. And when he gets to London, his aim is to sleep with as many different men as possible, often taking silly risks. He stays in a hostel in Earl's Court, goes to sex clubs, sells himself for money. He is abused - but the more he gets, the more he wants. He meets Owen and lives with him. He spends Christmas Day, a time he never celebrated before, drinking Champagne and snorting cocaine with Owen, a father of two of came out to his family - and subsequently, years later, Jesse ends up with Owen: a devoted couple.

The novel is extremely good. It's about religion, and a branch of religion I know very little about. It's about close-knit communities, prejudice and pretences; it's about finding yourself, with the help of others, and living your best life. Close to the end, the link is made between Jesse and the family who are the focus at the start of the novel. It's perhaps extremely unlikely that he would discover the link in the way that he does. However, it helps Jesse to make sense of his life, where he came from and where he's been, and that is no bad thing.

Read 'Rainbow Milk' and marvel at the story, told over a good many years, through different time periods, that Paul Mendez creates. It's sad, funny and reckless, often at the same time, and the cliched rollercoaster we find ourselves on is representative of what Jesse experiences. And, in all likelihood, what Mendez himself went through.

Without a doubt, this is a ground-breaking novel and one of the best you'll read this year.

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Rainbow Milk as a title attracted me to this book as did the beautiful cover and reviews from Bernardine Evaristo and Marlon James. It is the coming of age story of a bright and sensitive young man. It is literary and involving. It tells the story of how Jesse finds his place in the world and sees how he fits in, feels part of his family and history. Don’t be put off by Evaristos ‘graphic erotica alert’ or ‘jehovahs witness’ because there are only three or four sex scenes early in the book; likewise the jehovah strand is important mainly in the beginning. There is no sex and little religion for three quarters of the book. More importantly it is about being gay and black and working class.
I knew from the early Norman Alonso pages that I was in the hands of a talented writer and great storyteller. I was involved in the narrative because of this though some of the early sex scenes shocked me as I don’t usually read sex. Alonso is a Jamaican in the 50s and Jesse growing up through the 80s to around 2016. I thought it a clever ‘cut’ from one to the other and knew the book would be about how they were linked. We go from family to religion to London and sex work and meeting Owen the love of his life and future husband. I was invested in Jesse and loved his story especially the music included which was so much a part of his history. He carves out a new ‘family ‘ of friends and new identity. I read it in two days being totally involved. Recommended. This review appears on Amazon. Thanks to #Netgalley the publisher and author for a review copy.

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Thanks to NetGalley and The Publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did. After my initial confusion as to whether I was reading the correct book or not (this will make sense when you read it) and wondering how it was going to develop, suddenly I was reading a totally different book, which I also wasn't expecting. But the contrast not only in story but language for me, was genius. Many contrasts are examined in this book so this I hope was deliberate. I think this is a fantastic book, with excellent writing that kept me engaged. I loved the development of the central character. And the explicit emotional openness added a layer of authenticity that added to it brilliance. Great debut

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This book completely surpassed my expectations. Rainbow Milk is a semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age novel that follows 19-year-old Jesse McCarthy, a young gay black man who flees his very religious community in the West Midlands to make his way as a prostitute in London. This book tackles themes of race, class, religion, sexuality, freedom, privilege and more. Paul Mendez is such a gifted writer and I devoured this book in four days. His prose is the kind I love, rich and descriptive without ever being boring or flat. The novel opens in 1959 and tells the story of a man named Norman Alonso. In the 1950s, Norman, who was born in Jamaica, moves to the Black Country in England with his wife in search of a better life. However, life in England isn't quite what they'd hoped and the hostility and hardship they're forced to endure proves too much to bear. I loved the beginning of Rainbow Milk, even though I initially struggled to understand the connection between Norman and Jesse.

The book is bold and frank, full of trauma with a generous dash of wit. Jesse's character is so vivid and loveable, and he sadly received little to no familial affection growing up. Jesse's journey of self-discovery is quite remarkable, from the people he meets in London and his wild ride of sexual encounters to him finding out who he really is. I really enjoyed the graphic erotica in Rainbow Milk. Mendez portrays feelings of lust and desire so satisfyingly.

Overall, this is a thrilling, engaging and unique novel that left a huge impression on me. Rainbow Milk explores the intersections of race, sexuality and class while highlighting the histories and experiences of black people in Britain. Mendez has done something very special with this book. It's a must-read, especially for those interested in queer fiction.

Thank you to Dialogue Books and NetGalley for gifting me with an advance digital copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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