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Swimming-pool Library Paperback – 6 Jul 1989


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Paperback, 6 Jul 1989
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (6 July 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140116109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140116106
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 582,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The first major novel in Britain to put gay life in its modern place and context... A historic novel and historic debut" Guardian "The tautness and energy of Alan Hollinghurst's novel derive from its ambiguous status as it shimmers somewhere between pastoral romance and sulphurous confession, between an affectionate and credible rendering of contemporary mores and lurid melodrama...classic English prose...surely the best book about gay life yet written by an English author" -- Edmund White Sunday Times "Beautifully welds the standard conventions of fiction to a tale of modern transgressions. It tells of impurities with shimmering elegance, of complexities with a camp-fired wit and of truths with a fiction's solid grace" New York Times Book Review

Book Description

'Deserves first prize in every category... superbly written, wildly funny' - Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 7 Feb 2008
Format: Paperback
I read this book twenty years ago when it first came out. Although I remember loving it, I've always had it linked in my head with a strange experience I had with finding some letters belonging to an elderly vicar in a library copy (it's a long story, and given the themes of the book oddly appropriate and the vicar proved to be quite hard to shake off!)so although I've read and really enjoyed other Hollinghurst books (didn't go a great deal on "The Spell")I've never gone back to this one. Until now. I thought the twenty years might have dulled its appeal, but it is an outstanding novel. It probably was one of the first UK books to have gay life as a central theme within a literary framework and it still has the power to draw the reader in, to shock, to surprise and to entertain. And it is so well written. I thought because I'm now twenty years older the slightly old-fashioned class and race aspects might leave me cold, but they didn't. It's an incredibly intense and rich novel, which repays re-reading (even if you leave it 20 years like I did). It is remarkably honest and sexy. I'm going to re-read the other Hollinghurst novels - because here I think we may have one of our greatest living authors- I might even give "The Spell" another try.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Fraser Dyer on 7 April 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Enjoyable novel, much in the vein of Hollinghurt's other work. But honestly, couldn't the publisher bother to proof-read the electronic version...? Appears as if they have scanned a hard copy and it just hasn't decoded the text properly. 1 instead of I; d instead of cl; closed gaps between words; others word just complete garbage. Given there is in error on every page or two it really gets in the way of enjoying the book. As the Kindle edition sells for the same price as the paperback it does feel like we're being taken for a ride.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Miss E. Potten on 12 Nov 2008
Format: Paperback
A compelling and sexy novel about a decadent, gay young aristocrat in 80s London whose life is changed irrevocably when he saves the life of the elderly Lord Nantwich. Will has time on his hands and little in his life but sex and self-indulgence, so when his new friend asks him to write his memoirs he cannot find a good enough excuse to say no.

From the moment Will starts reading the journals of Charles Nantwich, new truths and new perspectives are opened up to him. The people he thought he knew are thrown into new light, new histories are revealed, and all the while his life goes on, clawing its way towards a new maturity.

The intertwining of Will's London and Charles's experiences as a young man, at university, as a soldier abroad, and into middle age, works beautifully and doesn't confuse the reader or become offputting. At the same time the novel raises many complex issues around class, sexuality and race over the decades, and the treatment of minority groups in England. The end was frustratingly brief and inconclusive, but the rest of the novel was absorbing enough to excuse it. I'm glad I got it out the library as I don't think I'd read it again, but I would definitely recommend it to people with open minds who don't mind putting a bit of thought into their reading experience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Christian on 16 May 2011
Format: Paperback
There is a decent story in this book but unfortunately the author's constant reversion to gratuitous and extraneous descriptions of sex rather detract from it. Having created the most dreadful and unlikeable main character, the selfish, vain and utterly loathesome Will, the writing, whilst good at times, degenerates regularly into juvenile descriptions of sex, featuring the dreadful Will and his constant flow of liasons and 'partners' none of whom I'd imagine would find such a ruthlessly self centred vaccuous person attractive.
The ostensible main story is thoroughly spoiled by these incessant diversions and I'd have to say that when the whole book is taken into account, it is disappointing. I'm rather curious as to the writer's motivation for the inclusion of some of these rather jolting distractions, but as the book progressed, they became so dull and dreary, that one found oneself skimming through until yet another of these episodes was over with.
It's rather a pity as some of the writing is good and the main story, had it been concentrated on rather more and a less odious dramatis personae created, could have been much better.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 Mar 2001
Format: Paperback
The world of this book is a rather specific one - that of the male gay Englishman in the 20th century, so if you aren't male, or gay, or English, you might want to pop your head out of the book and gasp for air every so often. Also the graphic descriptions of homosexual congress can make it an uncomfortable read on crowded commuter trains, as I discovered to my cost. Having said that, the book is well, if lavishly, written, and the interlocking tales of danger and desire work together to produce a brilliantly cohesive picture of the evolution of English gay life before the onset of AIDS. The story centres on the relationship between the narrator, a privileged and promiscuous young aristocrat, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, whose life he saves in a public toilet. Nantwich turns out to have had quite an eventful life, as we discover when the narrator is asked to write his biography. The depictions of white boys attracted to black boys are particularly well-handled, and the twists and turns of the plot never take you where you expect. The book's world may be insular, but its immersion in and explication of that world is brilliantly realised.
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