The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
Published by Viking, 19th June 2018
Genres: Historical fiction, LGBTQ+
Format: Hardback
Source: Borrowed (library)

Trigger warnings: substance abuse, discrimination, HIV-AIDS


In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for a Chicago art gallery, is about to pull off the coup of his career. The collection of extraordinary 1920s paintings will not only secure his career but make a name for the gallery. But as his professional life is soaring, the world around him is crumbling. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, his friends are dying one by one. After his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles ever closer and soon the only person Yale has left is Nico’s younger sister Fiona.

Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris trying to reconnect with her estranged daughter Claire. Staying with a friend from Chicago, a famous photographer who captured the AIDS crisis in all of its raw details, Fiona can finally start to explore how much the epidemic affected her life.

My thoughts

This book had been on my TBR for ages, and I am so glad that I picked it up at my new local library. What a heart-breaking and beautiful book! I cannot fully express how emotional reading this book made me, and how the stories depicted within just broke my heart.

I really loved the dual timelines, thirty years apart, showing the horrible realities of the epidemic and their long-term effects on those who lived through that time. The back and forth between the two really lent pace to the book and I couldn’t put it down.

The characters created here by Makkai are so complex and deeply human that I was affected by each death as if I knew the person. I was swept along with the story and felt each bump in the road, each feeling of despair and hope along with the characters.

I cannot recommend this book enough, although it contains some quite difficult material so it may not be for everyone. I will be looking out for any other books by Rebecca Makkai in the future because I absolutely love her writing.

My rating: 5/5

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