How to begin to summarize this?!
It’s a wonderfully complex book, but at its heart is the love between Kit St Denys - the famous actor who was born a gutter rat in London but killed his abusive father and earned a better life – and Nick Stuart, the idealistic doctor from a background of stifling piety. Nick is the only one who can keep Kit’s nightmares away, Kit is the only one who can break through Nick’s self restraint to allow him to be the person he really is, but neither of them are happy to need each other so much. They are so different that Nick’s principles and Kit’s lack of them push the two apart, even when they cannot deny the force that pulls them together. It’s a passion that will tear them apart, follow them to the ends of the earth, but is it strong enough to triumph over the vengeful shadow of Kit’s father, and the love of Nick’s wife and son? As I say, a wonderfully complex book, and a romp through the 19th Century theatre world with a brief walk on part for Oscar Wilde, and all the decadence he could desire. Underworld London, high society London, the theatre, the circus, and the Elephant on Coney Island – you feel almost as if the whole world is there.
The story is a roller coaster that takes you from terrible lows to joyful heights and then back again, always with that slight element of fear that you might have let yourself in for something more intense than you can handle. But what it doesn’t do is disappoint.
I was gripped throughout and left feeling very satisfied, and yet as though I needed to read it again. A definite keeper!
Re-Released Review - Originally Reviewed: Oct 19, 2007
At fourteen, Kit St. Denys brought down his abusive father with a knife. At twenty-one his theatrical genius brought down the house. At thirty, his past and his forbidden love Â— nearly brought down the curtain for good.
This is a compelling Victorian saga of two men whose love for each other transcends time and distance and the society that considers it an abomination. Set in the last twenty years of the 19th century, The Phoenix is a multi-layered historical novel that illuminates poverty and child abuse, theatre history in America and England, betrayal, a crisis of conscience, violence and vengeance, and the treatment of insanity at a time when such treatment was in its infant stage. Most of all it is a tale of love on many levels, from carnal to devoted friendship to sacrifice.