In this novel, ambitious and idealistic, but firmly in the closet, Jim Goodall joins the US State Department in the 1950s. Sent to Asia, he becomes disillusioned with his experience in Vietnam, and is forced to come to terms with his homosexuality.
Bram's fourth novel (In Memory of Angel Clare, 1989, etc.) dramatizes 35 years in the life of a career diplomat who comes out of the closet; the backdrop consists of political intrigue in the Philippines during the Marcos era. The result is an authoritative, very readable (and mostly mainstream) novel. Jim Goodall joins the Foreign Service in the early 1950's, at the height of the McCarthy era, when suspected homosexuals are hounded from the service as security risks. Goodall is repressed, vaguely attracted to men but unwilling to admit it, until the firing of one diplomat for "perversion" causes Goodall and fellow diplomat Dave Wheeler, bisexual, to discuss Goodall's sex life, or lack thereof, resulting in Goodall's first real sexual experience at a party/orgy. The personal narrative is rounded out by Goodall's sister's family, particularly by niece Meg, who loses a boyfriend to "Uncle Jim" - increasingly active sexually - but stays close to him. Brain rotates between personal instances and political ones - Goodall is serving as a diplomat in difficult times, and Brain evocatively records Philippine and Vietnamese crises in convincing fashion. Meanwhile, Goodall goes to gay bars, to the baths, and learns to enjoy one-night stands, while Meg engages in affairs and becomes a historian. Their two lives come together when she decides to do research in Manila. They both get involved with the Marcoses, Goodall with Ferdinand (and sexually with Imelda's hairdresser) and Meg with Imelda. A good deal of intrigue isn't resolved until Imelda helps out, in fact, and both Goodall and Meg save a life by relinquishing some potent information that could damage the Marcos regime. An epilogue, however, makes it clear that both principals prosper while the Marcos regime vanishes. Some of this is programmatic, but Brain convincingly re-creates a historical moment from a gay perspective. (Kirkus Reviews)