Before reading this, the only think I knew about it, was that it was set in the 80's. However, as it was 99p, and on a list of "1000 great novels" that I have, I thought I would give it a shot.
Initially, I found it hard work. I didn't really like Nick, I found him to be a bit of a sponge on the family he was staying with, and the descriptions of his initial sexual encounter were a bit of a shock. Does being slightly disturbed about reading a description of a homosexual encounter make me shallow? Maybe, but while I certainly believe that anyone has the right to do whatever takes their fancy (as long as no innocent party is hurt), I wasn't expecting it. So, the first 20% or so were a struggle and I was already envisioning giving this book a paltry two stars (I liked the style!). However, I stuck with it, and am glad I did.
As the book progressed, it became more and more engrossing. Nick's relationship with the other characters became more interesting. His struggles to fit in to the different crowds (his old Oxford friends, the upper-class acquaintance's he meets), start to mean more, and he develops as as a person, and a character.
Of course being set in the 80's, with a large number of gay characters, AIDS has a fairly fundamental part of the story, and it is handled very well by the author, the way that many people viewed it (a plague that the "homo's" deserve) is nicely juxtapositioned with the hurt, shame, and pain of those affected (both those who have it, and their families). It really is well handled.
I could go on, but this is a great book. A bit like a new improved like "The Great Gatsby" in many ways, but updated and set in 80's England.
The downside? Not with the story, but Picador obviously didn't even bother to proof read the Kindle version. Very poor.