The Line of Beauty

by Alan Hollinghurst (Picador) ISBN 978-0-330-48321-6


The title of this 2004 Man Booker Prize winner refers to the aesthetics theory by William Hogarth on the Line of Beauty, the S-shaped curved line that signifies liveliness and activity and excites the viewer.


In the early eighties middle class Nick Guest moves in with Tory MP Gerald Fedden and his wealthy wife. At the same time he embarks on his first homosexual relationship with Leo, a black council worker.


Over the years Nick becomes quite involved with the Feddens; he even joins them in their French holiday home accompanied by his secret lover, a young millionaire. By the end of the decade the tragic developments concerning his lovers and the Feddens’ secrets are exposed. Somehow the consequences for the rich and privileged seem to be less severe than for Nick.


Intellectually I get the contrast between material wealth and aesthetics that Hollinghurst exposes, but I never felt it. In 501 pages Nick hasn’t come any closer to me than on the first page. Not being British I might have missed the satire about the eighties that some critics rave about.


The writing is beautiful; the story flows along and although nothing much happens it is somehow easy to keep reading. It feels aesthetically pleasing; Hollinghurst must have found a way to incorporate Hogarth’s Line of Beauty in it.


Josine Overdevest 


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The Stranger’s Child

by Alan Hollinghurst (Picador) ISBN: 9780330483247 R190, 00


This is an awesome read, covering a few generations of how the British Aristocracy lived. 


The central character, Daphne is bowled over as a sixteen year old by the poet Cecil Valance. Cecil writes her a poem which becomes a touchstone for generations. He is the week-end guest of his chum, George Sawle in George's parents' home called "Two Acres".


Cecil is the central character throughout the book. Dead or alive, everyone finds him fascinating as a poet and a person. Even George finds himself seduced by Cecil's charm. This story describes many interesting moments by the people who live the lives of English snobs. The conversations are so true to life and the descriptions of the soirees which they have after dinner, cover everything from classical music to Keats and other poets. 


The author must have a following who will enjoy this book enormously. It is based on a past that is colourful and sincere and yet shows how insincere people have to be. The characters linger in my mind as if I had known them.  What a huge body of work this is. One can only admire the author for writing it down so well.


Dee Andrew


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