I could not have imagined a more perfect novel to be released in time for World Pride 2023 in Sydney than A Man And His Pride (my endless gratitude for Penguin Books Australia for sending through a copy for review). Luke Rutledge has set his debut in Brisbane, during that fraught period leading up to the 2017 same-sex marriage plebiscite (remember that?). For any LGBTIQA+ readers around my age, that sentence should be enough to get your nostalgia motor running.

Sean is a 26-year-old gay man who works as an online troll moderator for a bank. (And I know it’s not the point of A Man And His Pride, but it’s incidentally a brilliant insight into that line of work, having held similar roles myself in the past). Anyway, fresh on the heels of a broken-down situationship, Sean is getting back to what he does best (boozing and hooking up, a lean mean gay machine) when he meets William.

Stop right here: let me reassure you, A Man And His Pride is not a queer romance. This isn’t an odd couple coming together and resolving the problems of the world simply by loving each other. There’s been a lot of those books lately, but this is something different.

A Man And His Pride is a novel about life long after you’ve “come out”. Interrogating the experience of young gay men in the age of Grindr and never-ending Discourse(TM) about what it means to be a “real man” and a “good gay”, it explores how we navigate and reconcile internalised homophobia as we try to live our best lives.

Sean is a bit of a Debbie Downer, especially in the beginning. He’s sour on everything, including his best friend Abby, and his narrative frequently hints at a dark past (all being revealed at the end, of course). But Sean perks up a bit when he decides to Pygmalion poor William, a sweet but naive nurse who’s dipping his toes into the Scene for the first time.

A Man And His Pride has a moving ending, especially for those of us who remember the day the results of the plebiscite were announced. This is a novel sure to speak to a lot of people, particularly cis-gay men who are still trying to figure it all out.

Buy A Man And His Pride on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)