The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico's funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is...

Details The Great Believers

TitleThe Great Believers
Release DateJun 19th, 2018
GenreFiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, LGBT, Literary Fiction

Reviews The Great Believers

  • Rebecca Makkai
    Only giving this five stars because I'm married to the author's husband.
  • Dan
    In a weird way, I feel that this is the sweeping gay masterpiece that A Little Life should’ve been. It’s a nice long read about a close-knit group of gay friends and their straight allies that jumps back and forth between the height of the AIDS crisis in Chicago and present day Paris. Makkai does a pretty clever thing here by drawing parallels between the Lost Generation from WWI and survivors of the AIDS crisis. Ordinarily, when I read books...
  • Larry H
    I'm between 3.5 and 4 stars, rounding up.At the start of The Great Believers , Rebecca Makkai's beautifully poignant yet meandering new novel, it is 1985, and Yale Tishman and his partner, Charlie, are preparing for the memorial service for Nico, a friend who has recently died of AIDS.The gay community in Chicago where they live has been devastated by this recently discovered disease, as have gay communities across the country. The sense of loss...
  • Diane S ☔
    4.5 The story opens with the death of a young gay man, named Nico. Disowned by this family for his sexual preference, that is all but his younger sister, Fiona, who is with him until the end. This is her introduction into the gay community, a community that will embrace her as she embraces them. It is the eighties in Chicago, Boys town and the AIDS epidemic is in full swing. We meet many of these young men, so many whose families have cut them lo...
  • Richard Derus
    DNF @ p.148What, I hear you thinking, is wrong with this old man? DNF a five-star read? Five-star a DNF? ::side-eye::The fact is that I lived this story. I lost the love of my life to AIDS, and attended far too many funerals and memorial services before I was 30. So I really just can't finish the book. I am not up for those wounding memories to be poked with a stick.The prose is exemplary in its economy and precision, both qualities I admire grea...
  • Angela M
    The Great Believers 3.5 stars rounded up 1980s Chicago, the devastating AIDS epidemic seen through the eyes of a group of gay friends as they slowly lose so many in their circle of friends, reflects the time in a realistic way . Fiona who has lost her loving brother and many of their friends over the years travels in to Paris in 2015, connecting with Richard an old friend from those times, as she searches for her daughter and the grandchild she h...
  • Michael
    My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.Alternating between present-day Paris and '80s Chicago, The Great Believers explores the impact and aftermath of the AIDS epidemic on a close-knit group of friends living in Boystown. The novel tells three stories, through two perspectives. In the main plot, Yale Tishman struggles to cope with the illness and loss of his friends, and placate a jealous partner who fea...
  • Chris
    I read this novel when it was first published in 2018 and I was gobsmacked by how spectacular every moment was -- and by the rich panorama Rebecca Makkah created of Chicago in the 1980s and Paris in 2015.I was so enamored with it and I missed the characters so much that last month I bought the audiobook so I could experience it once again.And I loved it even more. Michael Crouch's narration is spectacular: so many voices, all distinct, and he cap...
  • Meike
    Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2019 FinalistWinner of the Carnegie Medal for FictionA global crisis that has taken the lives of 35,4 million people, changing the face of the world forever - no, this is not a dystopia, Rebecca Makkai wrote the Great American Novel about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic (which is ongoing; here's the latest data: The author introduces us to a circle of friends in mid-80's Chi...
  • Roman Clodia
    There’s an important story here (at least in the 1985 strand) as AIDS cuts through the Chicago gay community – but something about Makkai’s style left me feeling mostly disengaged from it in emotional terms. Sure, I had moments of anger as we witness a dead man’s parents exclude his lover from the funeral, the horrible voyeurism that makes a thing of a man being gay, black, whatever. But overall I was never able to get involved or attache...
  • switterbug (Betsey)
    When my best friend, Wade, died of complications of the AIDS virus in 1992, I was devastated and broken. If it weren’t for my fiancé (now husband), I may have spiraled into a dark, depressing space for a long time. Makkai’s book brought it all back to me—the despair, the secrets, and the shame that was forced upon my friend from the virus and the politics of the time. Even though the locale (Chicago/Paris) in Makkai’s novel is different ...
  • Esil
    3.5 starsI really loved the themes running through The Great Believers, but I was a little less enthusiastic about the delivery.The story is told in two timelines. The first timeline runs from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, and it is focused on a group of characters affected by the AIDS epidemic in Chicago. The story is told from Yale’s perspective, who is seeing many of his friends getting sick and dying. Much of his story focuses on the brea...
  • Jessica Jeffers
    "But what a burden, to be Horatio. To be the one with the memory." Like many others of a certain age who are fans of musical theater, I went through a phase in my late teens and early twenties where I thought Rent was the most amazing piece of art ever created. A lot about the show hasn’t aged well—just pay your rent, guys—but it’s still a moving remembrance of a very particular time and place: New York during the AIDS epidemic of the 198...
  • Jaclyn Crupi
    We get the day off to stay in bed and read big, brave and beautiful books. This is one of the year’s best and explores the realities and legacies of the AIDS epidemic through parallel narratives. It will make you fucking furious and it will instil deep faith in our shared humanity. It’s one of those great American novels that I love SO MUCH! My heart hurts and I feel profoundly altered. HOW CRAZY GOOD IS FICTION!?!? I honestly don’t know ho...
  • Jill
    The carnage of the AIDS epidemic has been often mined by literary writers. Tim Murphy’s Christodora is an excellent example of a haunting novel that captures AIDS devastation and enduring legacy. But Tim Murphy is a white, male New Yorker who reported on HIV/AIDS for 20 years. I wondered: what would Rebecca Makkai, who is a straight Chicagoan and was very young at the height of the epidemic have to add to the wealth of literature already out th...
  • Jennifer Blankfein
    Follow for all reviews and recommendations.Chicago is the third largest city in the US and we rarely associate it with the AIDs epidemic, yet, the city and its people were deeply impacted by the then mysterious and untreatable, deadly disease. Rebecca Makkai set the story, The Great Believers in her beloved hometown and takes us through overwhelmingly emotional times as we witness deep friendships, brotherly ...
  • Emily May
    I found The Great Believers really dry and boring. It's about the AIDs epidemic and a group of gay friends, split between 1985 and 2015, and yet this subject that should have been deeply emotional left me cold. I didn't care for the characters and there were huge chunks that could have (and should have) been cut out.The Heart's Invisible Furies and The House of Impossible Beauties also look at this time period and do a much better job of it, in m...
  • Elyse Walters
    Actress Mary-Louise Parker once said....“I think that no story is more dramatically interesting than to see someone fight a battle that is seemingly unwinnable”. The characters in “The Great Believers” were fighting for their lives.So much much failure....LOSS! So much SADNESS! Friends had perpetrations with each other making it hard to be with ‘the one who was infected with AIDS...while they were ‘the chosen’ with ...
  • Tyler Goodson
    The Great Believers is the kind of book you make time for, the kind you cancel plans and turn your phone off for. It's utterly believable, heartbreaking, and beautiful. In Makkai's hands, this generation devastated by AIDS are not victims, but fighters, resisters, and believers. I am thankful for this book.
  • David
    "And was friendship that different in the end from love? You took the possibility of sex out of it, and it was all about the moment anyway. Being here, right now, in someone's life. Making room for someone in yours."These words brought me great comfort because reading "The Great Believers" is as close to a real haunting as I hope to come. The ghosts of my own past were very much present throughout the experience. Makkai describes an era with ling...
  • Marchpane
    The Great Believers was a mixed bag for me, and I feel I should emphasise upfront that my 3-star rating is not an ‘all-over’ 3, but a result of ‘averaging out’ the excellent bits with the less successful aspects.The main storyline involves Yale Tishman, his boyfriend Charlie, their social circle, various hangers-on, and the wider gay community in Chicago at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. It’s delicate subject matter but han...
  • Thomas
    A good read that threads two timelines together: one follows a group of gay male friends affected by the AIDS epidemic in 1980s Chicago, the second centers Fiona, a mother searching for her estranged daughter in 2015. Fiona’s brother, a member of that gay group of friends, died as part of the AIDS epidemic and Fiona has carried the grief of his death and the deaths of his friends all her life. Despite its meandering pace, The Great Believers se...
  • Trudie
    * 3.5 *I normally set to writing my impressions of a book directly after finishing it, unfortunately for The Great Believers I read it partly on holiday and now find myself struggling to get enthusiastic about writing this review. It is just one of those books I was totally engrossed with while reading but a week or so later, it hasn't made the long-lasting impression I thought it might. The Great Believers is as they say "compulsively readable"....
  • Doug
    4.5, rounded up.I've read a lot of criticism that a 40 year old straight woman dares to write a book about the early years of the AIDS crisis, and the author acknowledges that others might claim inappropriate appropriation - but it is clear that not only has she done her homework, but her skill and imagination has covered any glaring gaps from not witnessing it first-hand. Two of the blurbs for the book use the term 'immersive' and it's an apt de...
  • Martie Nees Record
    Genre: General FictionPublisher: Penguin Group VikingPub. Date: June 19, 2018 The Grim Reaper follows all in this novel. Think of Scrooge without a happy ending. The author, Rebecca Makkai, writes about the 1980s AIDS outbreak. The novel is set in the heart of Chicago in an area known as Boystown. There are two storylines, told in alternating chapters: one is in the 1980s and the other is in present time. The book opens in the past. We meet a clo...
  • Blair
    (4.5) I really think Rebecca Makkai is one of the best writers currently working. Each of her books has been a significant step up from the last: I really liked The Hundred-Year House; Music for Wartime contained one of the best short stories I've ever read; and The Great Believers is so mature, rich and accomplished it feels like the crowning achievement of a decades-long literary career. (If the evidence wasn't staring me in the face, I would...
  • Greg
    I started out listening to this book on Audible. Then I got the hardback at the library because I wanted to see the words. Then I bought it on Kindle so I could see the words at night.I wanted to climb inside this gorgeous book and live in it. I did live in it. I'm still living in it.Incredible!
  • Kathleen
    “We were the great believers. I have never cared for any men as much as for these who felt the first springs when I did, and saw death ahead, and were reprieved—and who now walk the long stormy summer.” F. Scott FitzgeraldFitzgerald refers to the Lost Generation of post-WWI. Here, in Makkai’s lovingly written historical fiction novel, she pays homage to the ‘lost generation’ of brilliant, young gay men who succumbed to AIDS in Chicago...
  • Mandy
    This is a fictional book based on the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in the 80s/90s. I won this off of a Good Reads give-a-way. This is a beautiful and sorrowful book of love, family, and friendship. We see this story through two narratives, one during the 80s/90s and one more current. There is some criticism about the more current story line, but I enjoyed both. I think that they fit well together in ways and we see things from different points of vie...
  • Lydia
    I LOVE this book. It's heartbreaking and propulsive - I could not put it down, and was turning pages so fast it felt like I was reading a thriller. I loved all the characters, and thought the author did a wonderful job of the time change (going back in time then current day).