Cover Image: The Inverts

The Inverts

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Member Reviews

This book was stylish, cool and made me pine for pre-pandemic cities. There's much to love in this startling new voice in fiction.
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The cardinal sin of reviews is to review the book you expected instead of the book it *is*, but I’ll quickly prefix this review by saying that The Inverts is not quite what it’s marketing blurb pitches. It’s positioned as a raucous tale of queer friendship through a time in history when openness was not an option, with some globe-trotting thrown in. Whilst The Inverts does start out in this vein, a solid portion of the novel is dedicated to the vicious unravelling of the central pair’s friendship and its repercussions, pitting the characters against each other more than it unites them.

But expectations aside: what the book actually *is* is an earthy, ribald tale of two very flawed people. Bettina and Bart are childhood friends who embark on a mutually beneficial lavender marriage to deflect suspicion from their respective ‘invert’ sexualities, and the novel charts the progression of their relationship - both with each other and their cycle of lovers - through the early parts of the century and up to the Second World War.

Jeans certainly doesn’t shy away from salty, down to earth detail - The Inverts is anything but a prim historical. There’s a wicked sense of humour threaded through as well, and Bart and Bettina’s combative but affectionate wit is highly entertaining. It’s also compulsively readable; I barrelled through this faster than many other novels I’ve read recently.

However, as their relationship started to fray I found myself increasingly more frustrated than invested, the characters both so flawed and self-absorbed that I wanted to shake them both rather than quite rooting for them. There was also a particularly undercurrent of disdain towards fatness that recurred a few too many times to read as characterisation and felt more like the author peeking through (as noted in a few other reviews here.) Flawed and unlikeable characters are absolutely not the same thing as uninteresting characters though, so these gripes aside, The Inverts is a brash, highly readable stomp through an interesting corner of queer history, and well worth your time.

Favourite quote: "Look, it's like this. If we get bombed in this hellhole and die horribly, I'm glad it'll be with you. I want us to still be friends when we're old men. I want us to be seventy years old and still giving blowjobs to strangers in close proximity of one another."

Soundtrack of choice: Noel Coward - The Party's Over Now
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Firstly, a huge thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins for this ARC. I was so excited to get approved for this as this is one of my most highly anticipated new releases. The novel covers the marriage of Bettina and Bart, childhood friends and homosexuals, covering from 1921 to 1943. The pair marry after realising their shared 'inversion', allowing each other the freedom to pursue lovers of the same sex while still having the safety of marriage to guard their reputation. The novel has the glitz and glamour of stories set in such periods but includes the rawness of the repressed emotion and pain faced by 'outsiders' in this period, regardless of their wealth and glamour. It shines a light on the spaces of the gay community at the time and covers key moments in British LGBT history such as the publication of Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness and the use of Polari by gay men to identify each other. The novel's characters are rich and complex and thoroughly grip you from their first introduction as do their various love affairs and exploits. In places, it is a brutal depiction, with the characters' flaws coming out in grimacing details, creating a complex, sensual, and difficult fiction of a lavender marriage in the period. There's wish fulfilment and romance but also a crude, unflinching interrogation of the time. One thing I especially liked was the ways it explored the differences in the existence of how lesbians and gay men navigated the world, both the in the sexual availability but dangerous options for men seeking male companionship and also the isolation and compulsory heterosexuality faced by gay women. This was a really interesting book and I loved reading it.
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There was much to enjoy here, but I found I couldn't connect with it. I'd read more from this author in the future though.
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Fantastic read. I have been completely unable to put this one down. I cannot wait to read more by this author. 
Full review to follow on publication.
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This is an engaging book to be sure. There was enough overlap between every main event to keep me wondering every page how a scene would unwind, or what titillating cliffhanger each chapter would end on,  so I found it breezy to get through.
And despite a large cast of characters encountered over decades, the episodic nature made it easy enough to keep tabs on people - Crystal Jeans gives a very strong impression of socialites flitting about social circles meeting rogues and eccentrics at every turn, and it's a delight to trepidatiously navigate those historic gay circles, even while rolling your eyes at the privilege and vapidity of many characters.

Some things that undercut my enjoyment are a matter of personal taste: I don't particularly enjoy 'unlikeable protagonists' and Bettina and Bart are ceaselessly presented as self-absorbed and bratty. Whatever condemnation the narration delivers doesn't justify their repeated mistreatment of each other for me. Also, the bawdiness was fun at first, but there is a point after which the talk of fart and piss and shit felt a little played. But I could understand morally grey protagonists and blue humour appealing more to others.

Other things, I find less excusable. Most reviewers have pointed out, but the narration is incredibly cruel to fat people (and people with crooked teeth, acne, skin problems, etc...) to a distracting degree. Early on I started bookmarking instances where a physical description made me pause uncomfortably, but I gave up halfway through the book because it was just too much.
As much as I understand that The Inverts is written from the point of view of two relatively narrow-minded people, and that those POV characters will identify people they dislike by 'ugly' features, the longer those characters went on without having any ounce of introspection, the longer it wore down on me as a reader and felt downright degrading.
As a trans person, I was also a little put off by the strong associations between genitals and sexuality - I know the protagonists are in their own bubble, but when going through a queer historical novel that navigates various wealthy artistic circles (where trans people surely would have been most likely to live their authentic lives) I was hoping for perhaps one encounter with a trans character who could offer some historical perspective, especially considering the rate at which characters go in and out of this book.

The title and blurb (and possibly cover) is at the heart of most issues. I feel this would be a stronger read if the lavender marriage hadn't been the hook, because I found that angle lacking. The chapters are delivered in alternating POV, meaning there's long stretches of time where Bart pursues his affairs, Bettina hers, and we barely acknowledge the fact they're married at all. I can't search for it in my ARC, but I remember the word 'inverts' being used maybe once.
The Inverts feels a like a letdown because I went in with the wrong impression. If the title hadn't been a historical queer term, if the blurb hadn't been centered on a historical queer arrangement, if the cover art hadn't been historical gay fashion, I might have been more willing to embrace Bart and Bettina and their antics. 
Bettina read some queer books. Bart mentioned Polari once. My expectations were set too high.
It took me too long to stop waiting for them to engage with the wider community and accept that this book wasn't about inverts or lavender marriages, it was about two narcissists who happened to relate to that.
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I was looking forward to reading this for a number of reasons and I wasn't disappointed. It seems like a lighthearted explore of gay, but there is depth and despairing in there too along with the trauma of not knowing who you are and how to behave, and having to navigate it almost completely by yourself. Thank goodness Bart and Bettina have each other, most of the time. They certainly have their selfish moments and are adept at inflicting hurt on each other in almost equal measure to their love. Their vulnerability and their flaws are what makes them believable and relatable and makes us both love them and hate them too.  Crystal Jeans has captured the times with finesse and lyricism. If you are gay you might like to delve into the past with this story and if you aren't it is a peek inside a coexisting world speckled with humour angst anger tenderness mystery and love.
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'The Inverts' was a funny, unruly, debauched novel, and like nothing I have read before. It follows the story of Bettina and Bart, best friends since childhood, both of them filthy rich, privileged, outspoken and headstrong…. and both of them gay. In the 1920s, what else can they do but enter into a ‘lavender marriage’ and carry on indulging their true natures in secret? As the ’20s and ’30s pass in a haze of cigarettes, champagne and casual sex, Bart and Bettina's platonic love, and search for satisfaction, leads them further and further into tragedy and heartbreak.
I enjoyed the unusual nature of this novel, and the rich characterisations. The author deftly brought to life a certain section of privileged 1920s society, and I was plunged into decadence, sensuality and corruption, as the story progressed.
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I can't help but compare Crystal Jeans to Sarah Waters. Both are presenting LGBTQ+ fiction in a historical setting. Waters has a way of fully immersing you in the time period, but that's missing in The Inverts. Also missing is any character that you can root for or relate to. Bettina and Bart are absolutely hopeless and some of the most unpleasant characters that I've read. I just do not care what happens to them.

As other reviewers have pointed out, there is quite a lot of unchecked fat shaming in this book, which I think links in with the author's desire to include the reality of our physical bodies in a way that is absent from most fiction. I think this works well for the sex scenes, but as someone with a vomit phobia I really don't want a graphic account of someone being violently ill.

This book uses a loose framing device of a murder mystery which only comes back round again at the very end of the book and to be honest, I'd completely forgotten about it until then. It doesn't add anything to the plot.

When this book is at it's best, it's a good fun, smutty race through the twenties to the forties, but there's too much here that doesn't work for me to give it a higher rating.
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I didn't really know what to expect from this book, but the 1920s setting and the concept seemed interesting - two childhood friends, Bettina and Bart, decide to marry in order to hide their same-sex preferences from a disapproving world.  They hope that marriage will bring them a respectability that will allow them to carry out their love affairs in private.

The story opens in 1921 when Bart and Bettina share a moonlit kiss that convinces both of them that their sexual preferences aren't for each other!  What follows is a story of a marriage that is a giant cover-up - although, to the outside world, it looks conventional and produces children.  Instead, Bart becomes involved with a French lover, Etienne, and Bettina conducts her own love affairs.  As the pair progress through the 1920s and 1930s and into World War II, neither have any sense of where their deceptions will lead them.

I think I had hoped that this would be a heart-warming tale in which the friendship between Bart and Bettina would mean that they have each others' backs even through the tough times.  It doesn't exactly play out like this as both characters are spiky and tough so they do seem to spend a lot of the novel either not together or not liking each other - I thought this was a shame as it undermined what I hoped would be a message about the power of friendship.  It just isn't that sort of book!

Instead, it is funny and shocking at times and quite graphic - there's no cosiness in this version of the past.  In fact, it reads as quite modern in the social sensibilities and language used - occasionally jarringly so, but this may be because I am used to more conventional historical fiction.  It is also quite sad in places, particularly the framing of the novel in more modern times.

This was definitely a novel that kept me reading - it moves through time and space at speed and there really isn't a dull moment.  I enjoyed the varied settings and the historical backdrop, from Hollywood glitz to the very unglamorous work of the Land Girls of WW2.  Although I can't say I liked either of the lead characters, their story was interesting and thought-provoking.  

I'd recommend this to anyone interested in the sexual politics surrounding LGBT issues in the past - it certainly doesn't hold back on the challenges that people like Bart and Bettina must have faced in a much less permissive society than our own.
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‘The Inverts’ is a novel about a pair of best friends, one a gay man and the other, a lesbian, who lived their youth in the 1920s. It’s an interesting book, with a very raw writing style: it told things as they were, as they happened, with little to no romanticization. Both Bart and Bettina, the main characters, are shown as deeply flawed, in a way that felt human. While it ached to read some things, it felt real.

I disliked (I’d even go as far as to say that I hated) some things, that I’m not sure whether they were intentional or not. I despised Jean, one of Bettina’s lovers, finding no redeeming traits in her character since the moment she appeared and her sole existence made me want to give up on this book, which I only changed my mind about when I thought about this review. And I thanked heavens when she stopped being a constant in the narrative, because boy, was I tired. She wasn’t funny, or caring, or sweet, or… even interesting! No redeeming traits whatsoever. Besides, the first time Jean and Bettina had sex, it felt deeply uncomfortable, since it didn’t seem like Bettina wanted anything more than a few kisses.

One thing I rather enjoyed was the use of LGBTQ+ artists as a way of mentioning you’re queer, as well as trying to figure out if the person you’re interested in is as well. Bettina mentioned Sappho several times to several of her love interests, and Étienne, Bart’s partner, read him poems by Rimbaud. There was also Bart using Polaris, a secret subculture code used by gay people during early 20th century.

It’s a very straightforward reading, which is refreshing at times, but it also affected the book negatively to me, as there were many time skips that didn’t allow the reader to actually see the drama, which were the consequences of their actions and more details on how they dealt with them. It’s a book about the roaring ‘20s, followed by the Great Depression in 1929, then the World War II. There was a brutal change in their lifestyles, but I couldn’t see that much of a difference. I’d say it’s one of those cases where the author tells instead of showing.

There are also several lines about fat people and overweightness in general that made me uncomfortable, as a fat person and a lot of focus on genitals, almost portraying them as something that equals sexuality  (liking dick doesn’t necessary means liking men), which, as a trans person, made me uncomfortable. Yeah, transgender people weren’t as mainstream as they, we, are today, which already isn’t a lot, but I’m sure that within the queer community, at least, there was some knowledge about it. But then again, the protagonists are rich, selfish and egocentrical, privileged people who don’t realise their privilege, and the characters being… well, not exemplary people, that was a point that made me find the book enjoyable. They’re deeply flawed and I don’t think Crystal Jeans tries to prove otherwise.

 Overall, it’s an entertaining book, with a few good lines and some positive characteristics, but it’s no must-read masterpiece. The idea of it is wonderful, but could’ve been developed way better. I do think it’s a good start for works about platonic queer relationships, which is what I was seeking with this book (I’m a lesbian and my best friend is achillean, so I was looking for a representation of that. Needless to say I didn’t find it, but it can inspire other queer authors to write something with a similar concept). 

To be fair, I was really looking forward to youthful, over the top queer best friends, with all the glamour of the jazz age, a fun book, turning into dramatic in 1930, with their financially stable families entering into poverty, a decrease in their comfortable life conditions, and all the losses brought by war. It did have some of these aspects, of course, but it wasn’t what I expected it to be. So, if you’re looking for a book with a fast rhythm, with a simple writing style and with a lot of sarcastic comments and flawed characters you can relate to but also hate and feel angry towards, then it’ll be a good reading to spend some time with.
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I chose to read this book because I was intrigued by the description.  It isn't for the faint hearted, and requires an open mind!  The book explores themes of homosexuality at a time when it was a sin.  Set in the ninteen twenties and thirties the story follows the lives of two best friends, from childhood to the time they are both in separate homes in their dotage.  They are both gay, and married to hide it from the people that would judge.  They do however life a glorious decadent life and in a way take pride in being inverts.
The writing is absolutely brilliant and filled me with envy.  Crystal Jeans has the ability to make words come alive and draw you into the story through beautiful descriptions so much so that you could be living along side the main characters.
The book starts at the end, when you realise that something significant happened in the past and now has to be dealt with.  
If you get a chance read this book, with an open mind and a great sense of curiousity.  You will love and hate the characters but you will never forget them.
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‘The Inverts’ tells the story of Bettina and Bart, childhood best friends who came of age in the roaring 20s. Both rich, charismatic and gay, they decide to marry each other to avoid the criticism and marginalisation reserved for anyone queer of their time.

Jeans’ prose is eloquent	, humorous and as dramatic as the era demands. She captures brilliantly the glamour, opulence and excess of the 30s - the parties, the champagne, the chain smoking, the exorbitant personalities inhabiting Bert and Bettina’s world.

It is a definitely binge-able read, but at a time where LGBTQI+ rights (and relationships) are discussed more and more openly, one wonders - is this novel’s aim to align with the thematic momentum or to give modern readers more historical insight into the lives of LGBTQI+ people of the past, especially in London?
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I was so delighted to be approved for this title - I can see myself running out of superlatives when it comes to The Inverts. It’s an absolute rip-roaring read – a wholly original concept, brilliantly executed with tender, sharp, fresh writing. I became completely absorbed in Bart and Bettina’s world and those characters will stay with me for a long time. There was a real poignancy to the later part of the book and the progression of their relationship. It may not always have felt satisfying to the narrative towards the end, but it was wholly authentic and not sugar-coated. A fantastic read.
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The Inverts is a historical novel set in the 1920s and 1930s, following two gay friends who enter a marriage of convenience that isn't always so convenient. Bettina and Bart have grown up as neighbours and best friends, and might've been expected to fall in love. Instead, Bettina has a thing with a girl from her boarding school in the boiler rooms and Bart meets a French artist in Paris, and both realise their sexuality, but in their privileged lives, they're expected to marry and start a family. So the pair marry and spend their years in a haze of alcohol and sex, but things don't always go so well between them.

The book starts with a prologue showing Bettina and Bart's relationship, then cuts to the 1990s for a framing plot line that comes back at the end, then the vast majority of the novel follows the pair from the end of their schooldays until the Second World War. There's a hint of a murder mystery in the 1990s part of the opening, but this takes a long time to appear, and in general the book is a depiction of two privileged characters (they're rich and only work really out of choice) who, despite their long friendship, don't always actually like each other. They have various love affairs and sex, argue, and have children they don't seem too fussed about. As a concept, it's pretty interesting, if you like that kind of novel about rich people in the early 20th century having interpersonal problems because they're mostly pretty selfish, but with a chance to explore queer culture of the past at the same time.

What let the book down for me, making it something I'd class more as 'fine' than anything else, was the fact it was marketed as something a bit different to that, something that focused on friendship and being an 'Invert' and historical sexuality and gender. As it was, their friendship was mostly hate for a lot of the book and there's lot of them being horrible to each other or other people, including about how 'fat' people are, so I didn't feel as drawn into it. I liked Bart and Etienne's story, but it felt like Bettina only found women she didn't like all that much, and a lot of the side characters felt too fleeting.

In The Inverts they bring up The Well of Loneliness and the charges of it being too depressing, but in some ways it felt like some of that infused this novel: it sounded (and seemed from the cover) to be a raucous tale of gay friendship with potentially some kind of dark murderous secret, but ended up leaving more of an impression of how horrible the main characters were to each other. Some people will probably really enjoy it and not mind this fact, but I just found it didn't match up to expectations.
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Bart and Bettina grew up next door to each other, and having discovered that each preferred their own sex, decided to have a 'lavender marriage' so they can live the lives they want to.  Set mostly in the 1920s and 30s, a time when homosexuality was a crime, I expected an exciting read, full of sharp wit and humour, poignancy and intrigue.

Instead we are presented with two very self-obsessed, self-indulgent people who clearly have no idea how lucky they are, do not have to work for a living, and spend most of their time using and abusing people (and each other) to achieve some sort of 'happiness'.   It was a most disappointing read.  No sense of the period of time; the twenties, thirties and forties, with all the myriad events happening around them, fail to actually touch their lives other than allowing Bettina to become a rat-catcher as a (rather over age) land girl.   Even their parents are caricatures - father stern, unloving, full of cliches and mothers dithery and drunk, wanting someone else to look after them.  Bettina and Bart make appalling parents, with no thought of the impact their actions may be having on their children - and possibly there were none as someone else was always bringing them up so they were always on the periphery.   Personal, family and major world events just seem to blow over their heads and don't impact on their self-centred lives.

Very disappointing, I could not sympathise with any of the characters, even Bart and his love for Etienne and his struggle to carve a 'career' as an actor failed to move me very much.  Indeed, I would have given it one star but for the final chapter which finally presented them as human beings.

Thank you to NetGalley, HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction and The Borough Press for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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My Rating: 3

First Impressions

My eyes caught the front cover on the Net Galley page and I just absolutely ADORED it, and then the description topped it all off! When you get a 1920s set book or film, you'd imagine Wall Street and flapper girls, so I liked the idea to focus on homosexuality during this time and the different issues that brought, as well as the general problems at the time with the economy, agriculture, and so on. 

In the prologue, you get the sense that they are the closest of friends and aren't afraid to show that to one another, as well as their humour and love language in a way being to poke fun at the other. I think the author, Crystal Jeans, did a good job at deceiving the reader here, as it isn't long into the book when the tumultuous events start to begin, and the cracks in all of their lives begin to show. Also, the first chapter after the prologue hints at a murder that must have happened during the book which is sooo intriguing, nothing is given away at all about who/what/why/where!

The Novel

The friendship between Bettina and Bart was sort of a teasing yet really, really intense one which you could sense from the beginning. Growing up together, they had trust and common interests, but being so similar meant more clashes - the older they got, the harsher they clashed. 

Bart is introduced being fairly sure of himself and his sexuality and it doesn't really take him long to share this with Bettina. On the other hand, Bettina is a little bit more unsure and it takes quite a while for her to figure it out (with some experimenting along the way...) before the 'lavender marriage' plan came into fruition. From then, the marriage itself was quite sour in a lot of places, as it would be, and seemed to dig them into a huge hole that I was so nervous about! I think it did teeter towards toxicity very closely... 

I loved the feminism aspects that were in the story, since it wasn't long after women got the vote. Strong female characters are fabulous. There are countless other 'taboo' topics that are sometimes romanticised in films and tv shows (in my opinion), such as drug use/abuse, sex between men and sex between women being fetishised, the truth about the acting industry, and it goes on. However, 'The Inverts' treats these with some respect and realism, not making them more positive or nice for the sake of being pleasing, but also not making them completely horrid. 

This novel also deals with a hefty amount of loss. For me, I didn't feel a very close connection to a lot of these characters so their deaths didn't move me as much as other books have... 

Final Thoughts

Finishing this book, I did feel a little bit disappointed but can't really pinpoint one particular reason. The first two thirds of the book were so enthralling, and the final third didn't have that same amount of intrigue! There were quite a few things that just rubbed me up the wrong way, probably more on a personal level. Physical appearances seemed to be described so much and lots of features put down - weight, teeth, hair - which makes me so sad... I also understand the homophobia then, and to this day, but every time a slur came up something inside of me just recoiled, and that happened more often than I would've thought (e.g. in conversations between Bart and Bettina). BUT this is just my take on it...

I think there could have been something a little bit MORE just to end with some satisfaction, but I'm sure that's just subjective. 


'The Inverts' has such an intriguing idea behind it, which is why it draws the readers in, and captured me for the majority of it. Unfortunately, it was just the final section where I felt it lacked something more for me and just felt a bit rushed... 

There's no denying that Crystal Jeans has a great writing style, some good humour, and really creates an image of these families from the 1920s onward to where they could have been real! It is definitely worth trying as I did really enjoy the story to a certain point and would love to know others' opinions on it!
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This is the first book by Crystal Jeans that I have read and it has been a good one to start with. I requested this story because I was drawn to the blurb, and quite enjoyed the cover illustration. I found this a slightly unusual but highly entertaining story. The first chapter lets us know there is something of a mystery to be unravelled then we skip back and are introduced to our two leads just before another school term begins. Following Bart and Bettina through their lives as they realise what makes them tick and what they want from their lives is great fun with some curve balls and emotional moments and crises along the way. I found the writing style to be very easy to read with plenty of humour and pithy remarks sprinkled throughout. Some of the language felt more modern than what I imagine might have been used during their childhood and adolescence but I am absolutely not an expert so could be wrong, either way it doesn't spoil or take anything from the story. There is a lot more to The Inverts than the blurb may lead you to believe. I would quite like to hear this as an audiobook, I think with a well selected reader it would be excellent! I could also see it as a short series!
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I headed into The Inverts having no real idea what to expect - I’d read the blurb, but knew nothing else (and hadn’t read any Crystal Jeans before). I absolutely adored it - it was very funny, occasionally smutty, at times as tense as a thriller, and quietly devastating, but not in a cliche way - the lives of Bettina and Bart felt very real, even at melodramatic plot moments. The book struck a wonderful balance which some historical queer fiction finds difficult - there was no fantasy ignoring of the realities of the time, but it also never veered into endless tragedy. The homophobia always hovers at the background, ever prevalent - but it is never the sole focus, and there’s great humour throughout as well. The earlier parts where both lead characters are coming to terms with their sexuality are spot on - and at times very funny for it. I was delightfully surprised by The Inverts, and will be reading some more Crystal Jeans soon as a consequence.
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THE INVERTS made a lot of blunders I could very easily have forgiven under different circumstances. Part of its failure, I think, was that it tried to do too much (too many secondary characters, too many places, too many major life events) in too few pages, and in doing so it never managed to actually delve into any of these things in depth. So it felt shallow all the way through -- although really, shallowness was the least of its problems.

I don't think every novel needs to have a well-drawn plot -- but in the absence of one I'd at least hope to be bewitched by gorgeous sentences, charmed by clever dialogue, fascinated by complex characters, or provoked by big ideas, none of which were present in this story. It's billed as (among other things) a "scintillating murder mystery," but the opening flash-forward doesn't even make it clear who has been murdered, which means there's no way to build any tension around it in the body of the story. The murder itself happens at the very last minute and then is waved off-stage at the end without having particularly affected the course of the narrative. All it does is bring back together two characters who, by that point, I found unpleasant and exhausting, and whose feud felt petty and artificial in the first place. I don't need protagonists to be likeable or sympathetic, of course -- but I'd like them to be entertaining to spend time with, at least. If characters are going to constantly discuss how charming and witty they are, I'd like to see any evidence of that charm and wit on the page. 

Jeans has clearly done some research, which makes it all the stranger that she never meaningfully engages with her period and its ideas about queerness. ("Invert," for example, was not exactly an insulting synonym for same-gender attraction, as Jeans and her characters use the term, but a more complex construction encompassing both sexual and gender transgression -- Bettina, who seems utterly comfortable in her feminine gender presentation, probably would not have been called an invert in the period.) Still, I recognise that this is my own personal bugbear as a sometime-historian of interwar queer culture. Not every novel has to have a fully-cited academic bibliography; I get that. I don't require absolute, tiresome period-accuracy in historical fiction. I can even enjoy fudged dates, failures of research, constant anachronism, the sense that I'm reading about modern-day characters playing old-timey dress-up -- but only if the story is fun, which this wasn't. And it really sounded like it was going to be fun! Imagine my surprise at the parade of queer misery it turned out to be, all in the baffling guise of "a glorious celebration of queer friendship and all kinds of love": failed relationships with unpleasant partners, unhappy family lives, self-loathing, alcoholism, the constant threat of exposure, blackmail, sexual violence. And the central "glorious" friendship soured very quickly, and remained basically bitter and toxic for the rest of the novel. So what was the point? 

I'd like to also note as an aside how troubling and, frankly, upsetting I found the narrative's constant fixation on weighing and measuring every ounce of fat on its characters' bodies, its obsessive need to deem every character either 'fat' or 'thin' at their introduction and then continue to use these terms as a shorthand for their desirability and morality throughout.

Anyway, it pains me to write this review because I loved the idea of this book and really hoped I would enjoy it, but unfortunately I am duty-bound to speak my truth. Sorry! I do think the cover design/art is fantastic, though, for what it's worth.
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