Title: The Wasteland // Author: Harper Jameson & W.A.W Parker
Date of publication: January 5th 2021 by Level 4 Press // Print length: paperback, 270 pages
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The extraordinary career and devastating life of T.S. Eliot.
T.S. Eliot is a hollow man trapped in a dreary world. He works at a bank, a slave to the clock, the same routine, day after day. While London’s elite enjoy a Great Gatsby lifestyle and poets like Robert Frost are rock stars, attracting thousands of fans to each reading, Mr. Eliot walks past life, peering at it through cracks or around corners. Only in his imagination does the world drip with color.
Then one day he comes across Jack, an out and proud gay man being badly beaten, and something compels him to intervene. Life will never be the same.
Jack introduces Mr. Eliot to the gay underground of early twentieth-century London and to feelings Mr. Eliot had crammed down and locked away. And with freedom comes poetry. Extraordinary poetry that takes London by storm. But as Mr. Eliot’s fame increases, pressure for conformity does as well. Religious intolerance, fascism’s increasingly popular message of traditional values, and the allure of untold success present him with a decision that could have devastating consequences.
The Wasteland is the untold story of T.S. Eliot, his secret struggle with being gay, the people left in the wake of his meteoric career trajectory, and the madness that helped produce his greatest work.
Trigger Warnings: rape
Diversity Tags: LGBTQ+ representation
Writing Quality 3/5, Character Development 5/5, ‘Couldn’t put it down’ – ness 4/5, Intellectual Depth 5/5, Originality 5/5, Overall 4.4/5
Before I even start with the review, I want to say some words about the print version because I received a paperback as an ARC. Right off the bat, I was impressed with the quality of the print copy. It is a tall paperback, and the cover has a glossy finish. The colours are vibrant, and the cover is quite sturdy. The pages have a nice silky feel to them, and they are not at all reflective! The pages are glued well to the spine, and it was an overall blast to hold!
Now that’s settled, let’s talk about the contents of the book. When I started this book, I didn’t know much about T.S Eliot, but at the end of it, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole story!
Inspiration. All he needs is a little inspiration. If only there were a sunset. Sunsets are inspiring. Or at least they used to be. But now there’s only darkness outside. Only dark, where anything can hide.
Let’s break the ice with the pacing and the plot as a whole. Knowing that this is a fiction book written after the life of T.S. Eliot, I didn’t expect much in terms of action, but I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. The whole book was quite great, and the pacing was just right. The only thing you should be aware while reading is that you cannot keep up with the characters and the action on itself if you are tired. The Wasteland requires quite a lot of concentration that you may not be able to achieve if you are tired.
“His eyes,” Vivienne explains. “Those deep, dark, mysterious eyes. He’s a poet, no question about it.”
What I found a tad annoying was the fact that throughout the first part of the book, the authors referred to T.S. Eliot in the same manner. They switched between T.S. Eliot, Mr. Eliot and he, without bringing other ways to address him. I found this a tad too formal, but the authors did end up using Tom as a nickname in the second part of the book. This switch added up to the experience, and I loved that!
Sunsets. They are the one source of hope in this world. No matter what we have done to our planet, the sun still shines brightly. Perhaps it helps that the sun sits at a great distance away. It’s safe from us.
The characters were also good, my favourite being James. The names got me a tad confused at first, but after a little while, everything got sorted out.
Overall, The Wasteland is a solid 4.5-star read, that I would recommend with all my heart. The novel can become hard to understand, so I don’t know how suited it would be for a younger audience.
*I received The Wasteland as an ARC from Level 4 Press.
When HARPER JAMESON graduated from Brown University with a history degree, there was no inkling that a career as a writer would follow. After running a successful business for years, then launching the Social Impact Conference to support business owners, artists, and activists dedicated to positive social change, Harper realized that storytelling was fundamental to improving the world and that history housed the greatest stories of them all. Harper especially enjoys finding important but forgotten, or misunderstood, figures from the past and bringing them back to life.
W.A.W Parker focuses on telling stories about queer people in history in order to reclaim our cultural legacy. His debut novel, The Divine Proportions of Luca Pacioli, is out now and he’s currently writing a novel, based on the musical The Waste Land, about T.S. Eliot. When he’s not busy rewriting his own queer historical musical, he’s enjoying his husband Raul’s cooking.