From the author of The Swimming-Pool Library comes a perfectly realized evocation of a very particular world in a very particular time. Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2004.
Like a lot of people, I was mildly surprised (not having read the book) when it won the Booker prize, and at first I wasn't convinced: social satire has arguably been done to death, and many of us would probably rather forget the whole yuppie, Thatcherite era. However, there is far more to this book - which is indeed surprisingly bleak despite often being laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes in the same paragraph - than mere social satire. The appropriately named Nick Guest is a rather impressionable young gay man who finds himself attached to the family of his university pal Toby Fedden, who is terribly nice but frightfully posh and unequivocally straight. The Fedden family - including father Gerald, an upwardly-mobile Tory MP and mother Rachel who comes from Old Money - find it quite handy to have Nick around as official Gay Buddy and unofficial minder for their mentally unstable daughter Catherine. However, Nick's affairs are more complicated than they seem, and while on the surface he is all polished charm, he is becoming ever more deeply embroiled in a damaging clandestine relationship with millionaire playboy Wani Ouradi, including random threesomes and heavy cocaine use.Read more ›
The characters are well-drawn and often amusing as they carefully maintain their social position or strive for ever more. The author wisely makes the Fedden's (even the buffoon Gerald) and their 'eternal guest' likeable. This is the first Alan Hollinghurst book I've read and, although I initially thought: "Oh no, not another English author completely obsessed about class", I soon found myself thoroughly enjoying it. The writing style is exquisite: elegant and understated; and the observations succinct and telling. It's one of the best novels I've read in quite a while.