Book Review: Dear Mona Lisa by Claire Davis and Al Stewart

Title: Dear Mona Lisa
Author: Claire Davis and Al Stewart
Published: 12th August, 2017
Categories: Literary fiction, LGBT+, romantic and family themes
Purchase Links: Amazon

Tom, shy office clerk by day and drawer of foxes by night wakes up one Monday knowing the most extraordinary week of his life is about to begin. In five days time a lifelong ‘secret’ will be made gloriously public—but will it mean losing the person he loves most?

Getting married…

It seems like only yesterday Tom changed nappies and sang nursery rhymes to a laughing baby. He relishes the demands of being a daddy; especially teaching his little girl to draw and paint as she grows up. But the years tick by and times change. Long-buried secrets must come to the surface which may test even the strongest ties.

Tom and Lawrence…

He writes a list of all the things he has to do before the weekend and sticks it in the middle of his wall. The names and goals hang like threads of a spider’s web, inevitably leading to the centre, and all to the same place.

Dear Mona Lisa…

How to explain?
Each morning he notes the colours of dawn, listens to the birds and waits for the perfect moment. In one hand rests the balance of life and a terrible responsibility, in the other a wedding ring. Difficult days and the past loom, but his friends rally round and one by one the words come to life. Everyone waits as Tom finds the strength to open up and set free the secrets of his heart in a celebration of family, friendship and love. A quirky story of modern life, set within the breathtaking landscape of Bradford.

Reading Dear Mona Lisa was a bittersweet privilege for me, bitter only because I had to wait to read this one like everyone else! For the curious, the story began from a Beaten Track call for submissions for a collection of stories featuring older LGBT+ characters, but you know how it is (or maybe you don't...). Stories take on a life of their own, and forcing Tom and Loz to fit the submission criteria would have been an unmitigated act of butchery.

I have no words to describe Dear Mona Lisa, or none that are good enough. It's not a romance as such, but there are strong romantic elements. Those familiar with Claire Davis and Al Stewart's work will find the usual mix of down-to-earth Britishness - the dry humour, the wonderfully colourful supporting characters, and a deeply emotional exploration of the fight some of us have to maintain the stiff upper lip our culture is famed for. Oh, and foxes. And colour - it's absolutely bursting with colour.

Dear Mona Lisa is a work of art. It's a painting in words, and like you probably wouldn't pick out a specific detail of a portrait ('ooh, look at her left nostril, all dark and...mysterious!'), it wouldn't be especially helpful to pick out the detail here to illustrate what a masterpiece this is. That said, there is one line that knocked me sideways, possibly a spoiler, so I'm saying nowt.

Read it. You won't be disappointed.


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