Review: Proud Pink Sky by Redfern Jon Barrett

Berlin in the 90s, but not as we knew it.

This is one of those alternative history tales. In this story, gays and lesbians flock from all over the world to the safety of Berlin because they are accepted and celebrated. Several new residents include young couple, William and Gareth, who have escaped their homophobic town in England, and Cissie, Howard, and their kids, who’ve moved from America.

Cissie and Howard live in the straight community and soon Cissie explores her new city. She stumbles upon someone being bullied and ends up following the victim into a run-down part of town known as Remould. This person is trans, leading Cissie into a world of alternate sexuality and gender she’s not accustomed to.

Redfern Jon Barrett with a poster of their book cover.

William and Gareth set up home in Q.

This district is also run-down but it’s where they are given a shabby house to move in to as new migrants. Gareth soon gets a job at a bar in the Twinkstadt district, while William finds office work. They set up house. William learns to cook. It seems like the start of a happy relationship.

It took me a while to get through this book.

Not because I was bored with it, but because I began reading it after a major operation and often didn’t sleep well, so reading made me doze off before completing a chapter. But this gave me time to reflect on this story’s messages, and on Redfern’s prose and structure.

For most of the first half of the book, this alternate version of Berlin is the main character as the family and the gay couple are simply represented as archetypes. Yet they are never two dimensional because Redfern carefully takes us through their emotional journey as they come to terms with their new city.

Then we hear them.

More dialogue is introduced and we get a better sense of who these people are. This coincides with them learning about the restrictions of what initially seemed like a queer Mecca. There is prejudice in Berlin, but I won’t spoil this important twist in the story.

In this novel, important plot points are introduced slowly, skilfully, drip fed into scenes so the reader knows there is a more menacing side to this city. This, and the points I made in the previous paragraph, is why I admired Redfern’s storytelling style.

A great dystopian tale. Five stars.

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