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The Folding Star [Paperback]

Alan Hollinghurst
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

6 April 1995
Edward Manners - thirty three and disaffected - escapes to a Flemish city in search of a new life. Almost at once he falls in love with seventeen-year-old Luc, and is introduced to the twilight world of the 1890s Belgian painter Edgard Orst.

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The Folding Star + The Swimming Pool Library + The Spell
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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (6 April 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099476916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099476917
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'As is typical of the best classics, he has fashioned a universal tale of sexual obsession, love and death out of a particular life'" (Marie Claire)

"'Even in its sexiest moments, it never loses its intellectual poise. Dry witticisms intersperse sweaty couplings...The Folding Star is a novel of considerable breadth.What gives it its depth is the candour, wit, sensuous immediacy and melancholy intelligence applied to it'" (Peter Kemp Times Literary Supplement)

"'Few writers' prose can throw a party as easily as retire to the library as Hollinghurst's...[He ] is on as fine a form in this novel as his first'" (Tom Shone Spectator)

"'Grand 19th-century fin-de-siècle lusciousness, a seamy 20th-century carnality and a generous pinch of true wit'" (Sunday Times)

Book Description

'An extraordinary book which takes the reader into a world of obsession and mystery...The Folding Star is lit by insight and humour' Evening Standard

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I may just be nitpicking but.... 29 Feb 2008
"The Folding Star" appeared six years after Hollinghurt's first book "The Swimming Pool Library". It was shortlisted for the Booker prize (he later won it with "The Line of Beauty") and is often on the list of the Greatest Ever Gay novels. It certainly deserves its reputation, it is a superbly written, rich dense novel yet I don't think I enjoyed it as much as his stunning debut book. Edward Manner's obsession with the boy he is tutoring is something I have always found just a little disturbing. I find him more objectionable as a character than I'd like to and the strange thing about this book, which stops me giving it the five stars it probably deserves is that it seems to work better for me when it moves out of its Flemish central location. The writing when Edward follows Luc, the teenager he is obsessed by and a couple of friends on their weekend in France, is just superb, as is the section in England when Edward returns home for a funeral, but the pace at other times in the novel can be a little sluggish. I don't really get any real sense of this Flemish city, and maybe that was the author's intention, but it seems to lack the real sense of place which is evident in "The Swimming Pool Library" and "The Line of Beauty". I do notice, however, that other reviewers have praised this aspect of the book, including a reviewer who has lived in Belgium and feels that Hollinghurst got it just right. Maybe it was differences of opinion like these which prevented it getting The Booker Prize. That said, this book demands to be read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sense of place 9 Jan 2008
By Vicinal
As a long-term Belgian habitué I'd like to add another comment to the perceptive reviews of this superb novel, its profound sense of place. More than Hollinghurst's other novels, THE FOLDING STAR brilliantly evokes its locale, an anonymous Flemish city which is in fact an often uncanny amalgam of Brugge and Gent. It also evokes the strange multi-cultural aspects of the city and country, the distinctive quality of life in well-to-do Belgian homes and schools, and an almost eerie characterisation of Belgian teenage life.

More than any native novel which I know this book encapsulates the quality of lowland Belgium in the 1980s. It is far more than a 'gay' novel.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it 8 Oct 1999
By A Customer
This one of those rare novels you have to read from beginning to end - an achievement in itself. You won't get the flavour of it by simply dipping into it, and you cannot claim to have read it unless you have read the whole thing. In fact, to be honest, I was suspicious about it for much of the time, even while I was enjoying it. True, the Flemish city in which it is set is beautifully evoked; there is a marvellous sense of desolation in the juxtaposition of an ancient medieval burgher town and a North Sea resort out of season - a perfect setting for the central tale of frustrated, self-absorbed, beached love; and the whole thing is always beautifully crafted and paced. But I did think the main character was superficial and needed nothing more than a good slap, and the Symbolism, which forms the sub-text, is so heavy-handed that it makes irony look ironic - the narrator's first love was named Dawn, for God's sake, and the object of his Flemish obsession is called Luc(ifer), the Morning, Evening, Falling, Folding Star - otherwise known as the planet Venus. However, very suddenly, towards the end, just when you think there might be a neat resolution, the surface begins to shatter and break up, the ground collapses beneath you and the selfish farce becomes a universal tragedy. The author leaves you with a startling image that reminded me, strangely, of Tarkovsky: Symbolism suddenly made profound. You realise that this is a novel, not only perfectly-formed, but powerful and profound. It was shortlisted, but it didn't win the Booker prize that year; there must have been an embarrassment of masterpieces. Strangely, I don't recall.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique classic 5 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
From the very start of "The Folding Star" we are aware that Ed Manners is a flawed character. For all his intelligence and good breeding he is just a little too willing to indulge in casual sex, and a little to forgiving of his growing sexual infatuation with his seventeen-year-old pupil, Luc. But somehow his imperfections make him all the more real and alive. He is laid bare before us in Hollingworth's lucid, fluent and robust language, which seems to find without mercy the perfect vocabulary, the ideal word. The uncompromising honesty forces us to be honest with ourselves - perhaps Ed's indulgences are not terribly worse than our own. He is flawed and so are we.

The story line is full of symbolism, which provides breadth and widens the story's plot interest. But it is also a novel about place and the people that inhabit it. As a middle-class gay Englishman myself, perhaps I have a natural sympathy with this novel, but this is much more than "gay fiction". It's an intriguing work that repays careful reading and reflection.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly beautiful 17 Jan 2010
By Benjamin TOP 500 REVIEWER
Edward Manners takes up his position as private tutor in English to a couple of boys in Flanders. One boy, Marcel, the son of an expert in the fictitious painter Orst, the other the enchantingly beautiful seventeen year oldLuc, son of a parents now separated. Manners, who is in his early thirties, tells of his time in the Flemish city, and along the way fills in much about his own background and friends, including his early sexual exploits with boys at school and on the common.

Marcel's father takes a close interest in Edward, and enlists him in his compilation of the catalogue of Orst's work, and much of the novel dwells on the artist, his life and his work. But we also follow Edward as he makes new friends, including Chrerif who becomes his lover, and the enigmatic and insular Matt with his interesting and inventive ways of making money.

Inevitably manners fall in love with Luc, becoming obsessed with the boy, and longs to seduce him, and as he learns more about Luc the chances of achieving his aim seem more and more likely.

The Folding Star is hauntingly beautiful story, as much due to the quality of the descriptive powers of the prose. If I have a complaint it is that Hollinghusrt is a little too intent on the creation of the artist Edgard Orst, with several long passages devoted to him. Yet the story is very involving, and regularly throws up new twists and revelations as it winds its way to its somewhat unresolved conclusion.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the Swimming pool Library very unsympathetic...
Not as good as the Swimming pool Library very unsympathetic protagonist so left me a bit cold. Writing as good as ever though. It is an early book.
Published 1 month ago by Pam
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, witty and dark
I absolutely adore Alan Hollinghurst's work. There's something about his very literary prose combined with a grubby and completely uninhibited sexuality, and sensuality which makes... Read more
Published 1 month ago by David James
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best....
The Folding Star's not a frantic page-turner like some of his other books but oh how well-written it is! Hollinghurst IS the star.
Published 8 months ago by Ms EB Abdul Alim
2.0 out of 5 stars Uneasy
Hollinghurst is, for my money, the finest stylist writing in English today. His sentences and paragraphs are muscular, thoughtful and often deeply moving, without a hint of cheap... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Walter
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific sense of genius loci
It is difficult to add to the complimentary comments already made. I loved this book. The descriptions of the Flemish town and its people is so real, and the preoccupation with the... Read more
Published on 4 Feb 2012 by Reviewer Pete
2.0 out of 5 stars A novel for a particular niche of readers
There are passages in "The Folding Star" which demonstrate that apt vocabulary and rich and informative expression come very easily to Alan Hollinghurst. Read more
Published on 6 Nov 2011 by Skylark
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much detail
It is difficult to fault Alan Hollinghurst in terms of his writing. His dialogue is authentic and often inspired. His sense of place and context are both excellent. But... Read more
Published on 27 Sep 2011 by P. Burnard
4.0 out of 5 stars Folding Star
Well written, but with an occasional tendency to describe in detail matters of little relevance. The author is not afraid to portray both good & bad aspects of the main charaters.
Published on 2 Aug 2011 by pedro
4.0 out of 5 stars slow start but hard to put down afterwards
At the start i found this book intensly dull and after a couple of chapters stopped reading it and read another book instead but then after i had finished that book i decided ro... Read more
Published on 22 May 2008 by FUTURESTARdelux
1.0 out of 5 stars Keep looking!
After reading The Line of Beauty, I thought I'd read more by this author, and I did. This one is not his best by a long shot. Read more
Published on 10 Mar 2008 by Gerald T. Walford
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