Book Review – Clippings by A.J. Mirag

Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance (Prison)
Paperback: 148 pages
Publisher: Lulu.com (December 3, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0557013011
ISBN-13: 978-0557013012

About the book:

“Unfairly arrested and charged with the murder of a police officer, Daniel has been jailed indefinitely until trial. A Brazilian prison is a terrible place to lose his innocence. Daniel would have lost more than that — perhaps even his life — if not for Mephisto, his cellmate.

Clippings is the story of the challenges faced by a middle class young man in prison, and his relationship with a dark, mysterious man who seems eager to protect him, but who might have his own inscrutable plans…”

MY REVIEW:

It’s pretty obvious from the admittedly stilted writing style that English is not the author’s first language – it almost reads to me like it was originally written in another language (most likely Brazilian), and then just translated to English. I have to say, though, that I found the entire subject matter fascinating enough to overlook this weakness in the novel.

Daniel, a young Brazilian college student, wakes up in an infirmary, and finds that he is in jail, accused of being accessory to the death of a police officer. He is innocent, but while he awaits trial, he has to somehow learn how to survive in a rough Brazilian prison. The novel is set in 2006, and the author claims in a foreword that she did her research (and I could see that in how in detail she goes in describing the bureaucracy of prison life), so it made me wonder about the Brazilian justice system – is there no such thing as posting bail there? Because that jail-time-without-trial sounds pretty terrifying to me. And Daniel is of course scared to death – he knows – as we do – about what may occur behind closed doors in prison (I was guessing rape would be the least of it).

But here’s where the author turns Clippings into something like an unusual fairytale. While A.J. Mirag does show us the daily life in a Brazilian prison and the other characters in the novel do get preyed on, abused and raped, Daniel himself is spared all that – mostly because of the benevolence of the cell-mate (Mephisto) he ends up with. Mephisto is like some kind of guardian angel to Daniel, extending his protection to him (since Mephisto holds some power in the prison together with another mysterious character called the Professor) while without making any kind of sexual demands (as Daniel had feared). It’s explained later on that Mephisto had seen the injured Daniel in the infirmary, and pretty much fell-in-love-as-in-real-sacrificing-kind-of-love on first sight. So, good on Daniel?

Daniel, who has always been straight, slowly develops feelings for Mephisto – maybe Daniel has always been gay or bisexual or maybe it’s just the loneliness of prison life or maybe it’s because he’s just so grateful that Mephisto is his gentle protector – but the end result is that the two end up having a loving consensual sexual relationship (as in love-making versus sex). Like I said, it all read to me like a fairy tale – prison style – but the romance was developed so slowly by A.J. Mirag that Daniel’s reactions seemed so natural (and even realistic) to me. And Mephisto proves his love later by interceding on Daniel’s behalf so Daniel could be released from prison early.

I think what I liked most about the novel was how A.J. Mirag was able to create this very real world inside something very alien to me – the Brazilian prison system – she really goes into detail with descriptions of the buildings, the prisoners, the activities of prison life – and I found that world utterly fascinating and horrifying at the same time. The title ‘Clippings’, for example, refers to a practice the prisoners have of improving their daily fare as a way of fighting the drudgery of daily life. Daniel also holds fascinating discussions with the Professor about the philosophy of prison life and the inner social order and rules that they have inside.

Maybe the author will write a book two to show how Daniel will be able to deal with his new sexuality in the real world and how that will affect his relationship with Mephisto – I mean – I’d like a book about that 🙂 This is touched just a little in the novel’s epilogue, but I kinda wanted more details…

Other reviews of Clippings are found at Reviews by… jessewave.

Check out Clippings and help support A.J. Mirag.

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~ by RandomizeME on May 22, 2009.

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