Tag Archives: The New Life

The New Life, Tom Crewe (London: Penguin Random House, 2023)

‘We must live in the future we hope to make’ says one of the characters in Tom Crewe’s THE GOOD LIFE. What the novel then explores is the extent to which that’s possible and for whom that’s; how the institution of marriage may enable choices even as it might also obliterate individuals; how class and money figure into it, making some risks worth taking for one and not for others; how sexuality lends a different skin to the game, some wanting to be invisible due to personal shyness others simply terrified of being discovered; and how patriarchal power figures within a 19th century marriage, even when the male is an ‘invert.’ It’s a wonderful novel that well dramatizes the pull of sex – sex is central to this telling in a way it rarely is outside of porn – whilst surgically unveiling a spectrum of moral complexities tied to particular actions. It’s loosely based on John Addington Symons and Havelock Ellis’ writing of SEXUAL INVERSION, here the publication takes place in the immediate aftermath of the Oscar Wilde trial, and the novel vividly evokes that world of 19th century reformists (child labour, women’s rights, free speech, sexual research etc). Edward Carpenter appears as a character. The last line in the Afterword is ‘Truths needn’t always rely on facts for its expression’; and I would go further — the novel so successfully evokes the sexual dimension of all these struggles, the personal desires, the lure and restrictions of sex, the danger and frustrations —  that it gets at truths facts alone can’t even begin to express. A novel to savour.


José Arroyo