The Inner Circle is the autobiography of the fictional John Milk, a sex researcher, working alongside the famous Alfred Kinsey. Regular readers of my blog will know that I have recently had problems with a few fictional biographies (Summertime and An Equal Stillness) and so had decided to avoid them for a while, but luckily I had already started The Inner Circle and so didn’t miss out on this fascinating book.
Alfred Kinsey was a zoologist at Indiana University in the 1930s, when he embarked on a study of human sexuality. His controversial research brought many taboo subjects out into the open for the first time and generated a huge amount of public interest.
I think the key difference between this book and the two mentioned above, is that this is an autobiography and so all the emotion is there. We are not passively hearing the facts about their lives, but are living inside their head, feeling their emotions.
This book does contain a lot of sex, but it is all scientific, and not in any way titillating. I found the attitudes to sex in the 1930s fascinating. The differences were striking and I don’t think I’d realised how much things had changed until I read this book. Kinsey’s lectures on the basic biology of sex are something we are all used to having at a young age, but in order to get into his class, the University students had to be married, or at least engaged. These young adults were so in the dark about things that they formed phantom engagements just to be able to listen to him and learn the basic facts about the birds and the bees.
It did slightly annoy that I didn’t know how much of this book actually happened, but after finishing, I realise that it didn’t matter – I enjoyed reading the book and learnt a lot about life during the 1930s and 40s.
Recommended to anyone interested in the development of early sexual research.
This is the first T.C. Boyle book that I have read and I was very impressed.
Have you read anything by T.C. Boyle?
Which Boyle book should I read next?