The Inner Circle is a work of historical fiction written by T.C. Boyle. Boyle has written 14 novels, and he published this one in 2004. This is about Alfred Kinsey, the zoology professor at Indiana University who became the first great human sex researcher, his wife, and his immediate group of colleagues who followed him into this area of research where no one had dared to go before. To say Kinsey was controversial in his own time would be a vast understatement. While his intellectual achievement was not the equivalent of Freud, certainly the disputes and turmoil that he created among his colleagues was equal to the stir that Freud created in 19th and 20th century Vienna. Boyle writes from the perspective of John Milk who lied to get into Kinsey’s undergraduate class on human sexuality and then became his first and most trusted assistant.
The story starts in the late 1930s and continues until three years after Kinsey’s death in 1956. Only the characters of Kinsey, his wife Mac, and the President of Indiana University Herman Wells were real. Wells was a great defender of Kinsey’s research, or it never could have happened in that setting. There could be few more Christian, conservative and redneck settings than Southern Indiana in that era. Kinsey was a lightning rod who became an international sensation with the publication of his research. Kinsey wrote Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). The Inner Circle was a well-written novel, titillating at the minimum. If Mary Roach can write a best selling novel called Bonk, which is a non-fiction work about the sex life of sex researches (previously reviewed in the blog), why shouldn’t Boyle take on Kinsey and fictionalize his inner circle. You can feel the struggle of his most intimate associates to try to understand and keep pace with the first pioneer into the research of human sexual activity, and you’ll appreciate Kinsey’s maniacal drive to finish his work. If the subject matter interests you, this novel is worth your time. Thanks to my sister Pam for sending me the book.