What Belongs to You
Green Carnation Prize
British Book Awards: Debut Fiction of the Year
James Tait Black Prize for Fiction
On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher walks down a staircase beneath Sofia's National Palace of Culture, looking for sex. Among the stalls of a public bathroom he encounters Mitko, a charismatic young hustler. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, and their trysts grow increasingly intimate and unnerving as the enigma of this young man becomes inseparable from that of his homeland, Bulgaria, a country with a difficult past and an uncertain future.
Garth Greenwell's What Belongs to You is a stunning debut about an American expat struggling with his own complicated inheritance while navigating a foreign culture. Lyrical and intense, it tells the story of a man caught between longing and resentment, unable to separate desire from danger, and faced with the impossibility of understanding those he most longs to know.
In the media
What Belongs to You stands naturally alongside the great works of compromised sexual obsession such as Thomas Mann's Death in Venice . . . we are dealing with a writer who deserves his plaudits . . . I found myself unable to stop reading . . . Headily accomplished . . . an essential work of our time
Daily Telegraph *****
Worthy of its comparisons to James Baldwin and Alan Hollinghurst as well as Virginia Woolf and W G Sebald . . . spellbinding . . . a novel of rejection and disgust, displacement and transcendence . . . I found myself trembling as I read it
A refreshingly slim, subdued and contemplative piece of work . . . Greenwell writes in long, consummately nuanced sentences, strung with insights and soaked in melancholy . . . What Belongs to You is an uncommonly sensitive, intelligent and poignant novel
I had thought of Hollinghurst as I read What Belongs to You, Greenwell's astonishingly assured debut novel, but questioned whether the parallel came to mind because both writers create vivid, enclosed worlds filled with ambiguous and shifting relationships between gay men. In fact, though, the greater similarity lies in their ability to blend a lyrical prose - the prose of longing, missed connections, grasped pleasures - with an almost uncanny depth of observation . . . [The] middle section [is] a masterful study in alienation and escape . . . Like the writers he admires, WG Sebald, Thomas Bernhard and Javier Marías, he is drawn to the idea of a body of work that seems as though it is all one book, or, as with Sebald in particular, a territory in which the reader wanders. It is perhaps too soon to say precisely what Greenwell's own fictional territory will look like - but even this early on, the landscape looks too riveting to miss
Alex Clark Guardian