Rating: 4 / 5
James Gregory’s Going Dutch is the deeply introspective story of a twenty-something navigating the harshness of adulthood, New York City, and gay dating in the digital age.
Thank you to Simon Books for the advanced copy of this book!
Richard is a graduate student in New York City trying to manage the crippling anxiety that comes with complicated friendships, grueling studies, the gay dating scene – happening primarily via apps, and an utter lack of cash.
A sudden case of writer’s block sends Richard into disarray and near his breaking point. He must rely on the help of an unlikely colleague to meet academic deadlines. Around the same time, he connects with and begins seeing a handsome lawyer. Both relationships progress and he finds himself in the thralls of a stressful love triangle.
Going Dutch is a wholly unique novel that explores adulthood and relationships so honestly that I could feel Richard’s anxiety and confusion dripping off of each page. The character development, primarily of Richard, was personal and precise – like knowing a well-meaning but flailing cousin. Descriptions of the city are atmospheric, and of Richard’s relationships intimate. Masterful writing is the star of this novel, while the interesting plot supports it and maintains the story’s good pace.
While Gregory’s writing is so beautiful and precise, it is also extremely complex. Because of his expansive and creative vocabulary, this is not an “easy” read, but it is exquisite. Admittedly, it took me some time to feel comfortable with the writing, and with an initially slow-going plot, but it picked up immensely about a third of the way through and I never looked back.
As a character, Richard is so entertaining because he constantly makes self-destructive decisions but is totally unapologetic about who he is. His terrible decision-making skills and fantastic ability to compartmentalize collide perfectly to constantly bring him so near the trouble he desperately seeks to avoid. This is absolutely not to say that Richard isn’t likable – he definitely has flaws, but I was always rooting for him throughout his well-intentioned fumblings.
What I particularly love about this novel is that it’s a story about a gay man in a love triangle with another gay man and a straight woman that includes not one ounce of sexuality soul-searching. Richard never questions whether or not he’s gay and never has a moment of doubt about his intentions – he is confidently, unapologetically himself and does what he wants with whom he wants. This is not an exploration of sexuality; it is an exploration of adulthood, anxiety, and complicated relationships that is predicated by the fact that Richard is gay. I love that this novel is self-affirming and inclusive.
Even with the slow start, Going Dutch is a fantastic novel with so much depth, heart, and juiciness. The elevated writing is challenging but worth it, and I highly recommend this novel to lovers of both contemporary and literary fiction, to those seeking more inclusive and unique stories, and to fans of infuriating but lovable protagonists.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on Going Dutch. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!