Monday, 2 January 2012

"Not a Man" by M. A. McRae.

From child of the slums to Oxford Graduate, this is the story of Shuki Bolkiah - modern day eunuch.

‘Not a Man’ is the story of Shuki Bolkiah, a pretty boy from the slums, who was taken by a wealthy man to be his bed-boy. Once ‘dishonoured’ his parents did not want him back. It was the master or starve. But Shuki liked living with the master, always with food and shelter, and the sex was just his job. So when the master spoke of ‘a small operation’ that would keep him beautiful, ‘in the next year or two,’ he didn’t know that it was already time to run. It was 1972.

The idea for the Shuki Series germinated almost twenty years ago, when a pet dog was desexed. It is accepted practice to castrate dogs, usually called ‘desexing’ or ‘neutering.’  It is regarded as the responsible thing to do.  The dog is less likely to stray, does not sire litters of mongrels, and is thought to be more docile for the small operation.

This particular dog sulked for a few days, but then forgave his owners and forgot about the indignity. After all, what choice did he have?

So what would a boy do under similar circumstances? 
What if he had no choice but to accept what was done to him? 
What if the alternative was starvation?

Shuki was a highly intelligent child, with a considerable amount of cunning. It was not his choice to become a bed-boy to his master, it was not his doing that he was not permitted to return to his family, and it was certainly not his choice to be castrated. 

Follow Shuki’s journey from slum-boy, just fighting to survive, to Oxford graduate,
 respected as a person, if not as a man.  This is the story of Shuki Bolkiah, modern day eunuch.

 Three sample chapters (of 26 chapters) can be found on

Buy the paperback from The Book Depository, which has free delivery all around the world, around $23, or buy the ebook:  
Comments by Readers:
Andrew Wright:  The strength and singular power of your main character are captivating from the off. The sorrow of the story, the opportunity for salvation, the fight for some kind of justice after the rebellion. An enigmatic and enthralling lead whose experiences drew me in from the beginning.   

Joanne Ellis: Absolutely fabulous writing and story.

Rachel Vevers:  This is a book I stayed up half the night to finish. The writing is beautiful and the plot is painful and poignant. The character of Shuki is naive and wise, complex and empathetic.

Ashen Venama:  Not a Man - stunningly original. A consistant gentle voice renders this incredible tale right through. Against all odds, Shuki is a remarkable character. The sexual scenes are shocking yet drawn with enough detachment to not take away from the real process going on for the boy who has the intelligence to overcome his victimhood. Elegant and touchingly surreal. The artist at work. This must be appreciated on many levels. 

Bill Carrigan:  This is beautifully written, fascinating, disconcerting, and moving.   

A recent review:

Unputdownable, October 16, 2011
This review is from: Not a Man (Kindle Edition)
Reading this book, I felt as though I was eavesdropping as the shocking saga of ten-year old Shuki Bolkiah unfolds with page-turning momentum.

From the very first line I was drawn straight into the action, so that I was right there with Shuki; watching, listening, holding my breath as Australian author M.A. McRae led me on a heart-stopping voyage of discovery.

I think the all-seeing omniscient view-point is perfect for this story, enabling it to have the amazing story-telling roll that keeps you abreast of every facet of the vast cast of characters - their thoughts, their actions, their acts of violence and their loves.

McRae's style of writing with its refreshingly unorthodox lyrical word order lends itself to the slightly mythical atmosphere she evokes, and gives the book just the right vibes for its setting in a fictional middle Eastern country.

A fictional country, yes. And yet the story itself has the ring of truth in it. Both tragic and
uplifting, and written with such authority, it is difficult not to be convinced that it could all be absolutely true.

Shuki is not a man, and due to a shocking and barbarian act of abuse, will never be a man. But he nevertheless through natural ability and sheer determination displays outstanding "manly" qualities that any normal man would aspire to.

This is not like any other book I have read. It richly deserves a five-star rating.

The most recent review:

5.0 out of 5 stars Gut wrenching, visceral, compelling - brilliant!, January 1, 2012
Poppet, author.  This review is from: Not a Man (Kindle Edition)
Not A Man is the hardest book I've ever read. Not because the author's work is substandard, but because the story is utterly brutal on a cellular level. From the beginning my insides were silently screaming at how things *used to be*.

I'm a westerner, granted I thought things were unreasonable when I was a child, I thought women had ridiculous restrictions, and I am delighted to have the vote and liberation, to have my own money and freedom to drive, fight, to do as I please. I live in a country where the police respond to domestic violence, rape, abuse.. And that is why reading this story was so very very hard.

Shuki is just a young child, poor, from a family living in starvation and poverty where his brothers and sisters routinely die and his mother is old and haggard from so many births and malnourishment by the time she's twenty. Imagine living in a country where it's illegal to use contraception and you are expected to be married between the ages of 13 and 14? (and 15 is pushing it).

This life is so vividly brought to life between the pages of this epic story. And so many times I was reading between my fingers, cringing, wanting to bash, and fight and scream, but compelled to read on because I just so desperately needed Shuki to have a happy ending.

Any woman reading this will respond on a purely emotional level. Because Shuki is in the same position as many woman have been, he's viewed as a sexual object. Not a person, an object. There is a line in the book which rings so true, (and sums it all up), "In England, it was quite unlikely that someone might try and abduct him. In his own country, he was effectively a slave. Like the diamond necklace he `owned,' but didn't dare sell. He owned it as much as a horse owned its saddle."

Shuki is abducted as a child, castrated, living in fear of being thrown out, ingratiating himself and desperate to please, in order to survive, even when these monsters routinely sodomise him, (bound and gagged he was fully conscious for his *operation*.) The horror is unbearable to your conscience.

Then when the masters sons are older, they have their turn, and this poor child is humiliated, shamed, and used. From his tenth birthday to his twentieth, you are with him when he runs for his life, desperate for freedom, for equality, to be more than a sex slave. The tale takes you with him, using cunning and accumulating as many skills as he can, to survive.

And just when you are feeling safe and happy with his life (although still a little horrified at how many men seem to want to have sex with this pretty boy), then McRae pulls the rug out from underneath you. As a reader you are destroyed right along with Shuki. Oh how many times this story touched my heart and emotions and made me cry.

It's not a quick read (it's a long book), but it is so engaging, so heart wrenching and so emotive you cannot stop. The scenery, names, lifestyle, country, everything in this story feels so authentic that you feel as if you've been to this place yourself. The arab landscape is harsh, but she manages to draw out the beauty in this landscape while simultaneously exposing the utter hardship of the inequality between the sexes. Stoned, whipped, raped, put out to starve, this story shows you the highs and lows in equal measure. Not once is this story hurried, but it is intricate and detailed, never allowing you to miss a single thing, enveloping you completely into the environment and the lives of each character.

It was the hardest book I've ever read, the last line gave me chills, just because it had just that hint of menace in it that this work has primed you to be skittish about, but because it's such an exposé, showing both sides of every coin, taking you to the monster's mind and into the mind of the traumatised, with such precision, and in such a strangely matter of fact way, that this book just has to get a full star review.

Every western woman should read this book. I know it has a lot of male on male scenes, but this is not erotica in any way, it is a glimpse into a different mentality, and exposes just how brutal a selfish degenerate can be when all he's looking for is gratification without thinking about the consequences of his actions. I said it in one of my own books, but never has it been so apt, "the innocent carry the guilt". This book shows that to you, raw, visceral, demanding you to respond with your conscience and your emotions. It makes you desperate to change this world and eradicate this strain of barbarism. And if a man should read this and agree with the content, then for all our sakes get counselling now, before you do this damage to someone. Thank you McRae for showing any abuser the results of his actions which he may have conveniently hidden himself from (or shut out).

I commend you on writing a book that must have twisted you inside out and given you nightmares. You did it eloquently, sensitively, but leaving no stone unturned.


Poppet (author)

There are other reviews on several sites, nearly all 5-star reviews.  Maybe you should try it? 


1 comment:

  1. The most recent review for 'Not a Man.'

    by Debbie -

    Raw, brutal, shocking. Warm, compassionate, tender. All these things and more. Rarely have I gone through so many different emotions reading one book. This is a very long and incredibly detailed story with a huge cast, yet I was never confused or wondering who each character was - nor was I bored, or bogged down with too much information. Instead the author weaves a rich tapestry, pulling threads from a middle-eastern culture that at times seems archaic and extreme to 20th century Oxford University and back again, showing you layer upon layer of depth as slum boy Shuki realises his good looks can be both blessing and curse.

    What is fascinating is how the author writes with such authority about another culture. Whether this is pure research or she has lived this life, I don't know - but it sounds so authentic and believable. While the brutalities of Shuki's masters are shocking, there are moments of real tenderness and love, and the family bond is strong and close. They share everything - including Shuki. And how far can you go, before love and sex become inextricably entwined?

    There's a lot of sex in this book. And not all of it is good sex, so don't read this if you are easily offended by graphic descriptions of such things. But I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the different standards by which other cultures live - even today. Shuki's story could well be real.

    One of the best books I have read in a long, long time.