Book Review: Three Ex Presidents and James Franco by John Buchanan
It is 2008 and John, an Irish university student, is spending a year at an American liberal arts college. During that year he forms three very different relationships with three very different young men—the radically gay Jake, Eric the straight jock whose life is turned upside down when he is shot, and Brendon, his former best friend from Ireland. Also during that year he will be involved in a shooting, cause a scandal at a historical monument, meet an ex-president and be complimented by a rising Hollywood star.
Unfortunately, this novel does not live up to its plot summary. Rather than an emotional roller-coaster ride of discovery and entry into the adult life, it felt plodding and lacking understanding of its characters. None of the characters felt like real people, they just seemed to be there to serve the plot. The plot also felt very pedestrian, moving from one event on to another; each event seemed to finished and rounded off before the next one began. No event bleeds into the next one.
So many times in this novel we’re told what has happened, rather than shown what happened, without any insight into the characters and their actions. Far too many times the narrator turns into the author philosophising about different aspects of gay life and life in general. These sections, apart from adding nothing to the plot or narrative, did not read like the musings of a 19/20-year-old Irish young man; they read like the philosophising of a middle-aged, cultured man. But worst of all was the fact that the narrator’s voice was all wrong. He was supposed to be a 19/20-year-old Irish young man, in America for the first time, exploring what it means to be a gay man. There was no wonder, no culture shock, no comparing American culture to the one he’d grown up in, no questioning of the new culture he was living in; he didn’t even get confused with the new currency he had to use. He spoke and behaved like an American man.
There were so many missed opportunities in this novel, in so many ways it could have been so such better, but so many times it fell back on cliché or lacklustre plot turns. After finishing reading this novel, I was left wondering what the point to it was; it was so flat and lacking in insights.
Edited by Drew Payne
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