Review | Leading Men

Leading Men by Christopher Castellani


“They say artists crave immortality. I say we don’t give a fuck about the next life. It’s this one we want more of.” *

In the summer of 1953, American writer Tennessee Williams and his lover Frank Merlo attend a wild party in Italy hosted by Truman Capote.  It’s there that they meet the beautiful aspiring actress Anja Blomgren and their lives change forever.

Tenn and Frank travel Italy with Anja and her mother, as well as writer Jack Horne and his lover Sandro.  After hiking to a remote cliff, they find themselves surrounded by a group of boys and a fight breaks out as the group attacks Anja and her mother.

“Anja interpreted Suddenly Last Summer as Tenn’s revenge on her for going beyond him in fame, as her punishment for not following behind him begging for scraps like an American actress.” *

Though haunted by the act of violence on the cliff, Anja goes on to become a celebrated actress thanks to the help of Tenn and Frank that summer in Italy.

She loved Frank and kept in touch with him through his long illness while Tenn distanced himself from Frank as his condition grew worse.  Tenn paid for Frank’s radiation and care but could not bring himself to sit by his side as he died.

In the present day, Anja has become a recluse in the U.S.  A young man unexpectedly contacts her and she discovers he’s connected to the events of that fateful summer in Italy.

When the young man learns that Anja possesses the sole copy of the final play ever written by Tennnessee Williams, he begs her to step back in the spotlight one final time to share it with the world.
The problem is that the play is personal; it shares a part of Tenn that he never shared with anyone and it holds a great deal of hurt for Anja who never forgave Tenn for abandoning Frank when he needed him most.

Leading Men does a fantastic job of seamlessly alternating narrators and time periods while weaving fact and fiction to detail a very complicated literary love story.

The writing was absolutely phenomenal—I wanted to highlight so many of the lovely and compelling passages!  Unfortunately I never connected with any of the characters.  While they are described in great detail there was something that prevented me from finding dimension to the characters and because of that I wasn’t invested in the story itself.

Thanks to Viking and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for an honest review.  Leading Men is scheduled for release on February 12, 2019.

*Quotes included are from an advance readers copy and are subject to change upon final publication.


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