eARC Review: Cleanness, by Garth Greenwell

cleanness Garth GreenwellRating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, M/M


I received an advanced copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I have not read Garth Greenwell’s other work What Belongs to You, and it was with no expectations and hardly any memory of the synopsis that I started it. What I knew of the book is that it would be an exploration of sexuality and identity, which is absolutely true. This book is very sexually explicit and beautifully written, the sentences not too flowery but still poignant. I was not sure I liked this book for the majority of it, because although I appreciated the writing and the themes, erotic literature is not quite what I normally pick up, and I felt uncomfortably like a voyeur. Basically, if you’re a prude like me, maybe skip this book. The main character, an American teacher, tells episodes of his life in Bulgaria, and how they reflected previous experiences he had in the US years before. I really enjoyed reading about Sofia and had my heart broken when learning the reality of homophobia there. Reading this a very immersive experience.

“Enjoying” this book is not the right way to say what I felt, I was impressed by it and definitely see the beauty in its execution, but I did not feel invested enough in the character or the story to really appreciate the book in its fullest. I don’t think it lacked in any of those areas, it was written purposefully this way, it’s just that for my particular taste I would have liked to have been more invested in the main character and seeing the chapters converge into one narrative. I was also a bit tired of the whole dirty vs clean dichotomy and its association with kinky vs “normal” sex and loneliness vs companionship. I think a specific kind of reader will really enjoy this, though, it was just not for me.

10 thoughts on “eARC Review: Cleanness, by Garth Greenwell

  1. Great review! I’ve seen so many positive reviews for this one but was just not sure I was interested. I feel better now about not picking it up immediately. I think I could be okay with the erotic nature of it, but not as much if it’s hard to invest in the character and story.

    Liked by 1 person

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