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The Stranger's Child Paperback – 1 Jul 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Open market ed edition (1 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330513966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330513968
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 4.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (323 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 395,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

From the UK: ""The Stranger's Child "is something of a dichotomy: epic in scope, but minute in its details. . . . To say it is eagerly awaited is like saying JK Rowling is a tad popular. . . . "The Stranger's Child "does not disappoint. A study on fame and the passing of time, it is as compulsive as anything [Hollinghurst has] written. It begins with a weekend at the Sawles' family home in 1913, and the arrival of a poet named Cecil Valance who writes a poem that becomes lauded after Winston Churchill quotes from it. Over the following decades, a variety of journalists and biographers try to piece together what happened that weekend to inspire such a book. . . . Buy it, then relish and bathe in every word. [This] novel warrant[s] obsessive appreciation of every line"--James Mullinger, "GQ" (UK)

About the Author

Alan Hollinghurst is the author of four previous novels, The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star, The Spell and The Line of Beauty. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction and the 2004 Man Booker Prize. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Hollinghurst often reminds me of E.M.Forster with his nostalgia for the early C20 and his focus on the minute details of people's thoughts, observations of one another and interrelationships, all presented in well-crafted prose (apart from the odd clunky phrase like "she said carryingly").

Charismatic, arrogant and manipulative, the aristocratic Cecil Valance achieves a possibly undeserved popularity as a poet after his early death in the First World War. Can the truth of his life ever be told by biographers? This seems unlikely since even those who claim to know him have very different perceptions. In five separate sections separated by gaps of several years or even decades, the author aims to show the false nature of memory.

You could argue that Hollinghurst is daring in discarding many of the "conventions" of novel-writing. The development of a strong plot is given second place to what often reads like a series of short stories: portrayals of characters who make only brief appearances, or the description of quite minor incidents, evocative of past generations, but very amusing, ludicrous or in the style of a black comedy. The author tends to build up anticipation of a certain outcome, only for it not to occur, insofar as one can judge! Significant events are frequently no more than implied.

Although this book promises much, my growing suspicion that it would not deliver proved justified. It suffers from being too long, repetitive in its limited revelations and self-indulgent, not least in its campness - I grew tired of "blushing" and "giggling" men of all ages.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Crowe on 24 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
I haven't read any of Alan Hollinghurst's previous work, but I'm impressed by this one. What follows are notes on aspects of it that I found interesting;

TITLE: The stranger's child is Cecil Valance, who comes in 1913 as a visitor to Two Acres, home of the widowed Freda Sawle and her three children. The middle child, George, brings Cecil from Cambridge, where the two are members of the Apostles, an intellectual club-cum-debating society with a strong homosexual component to its membership. Cecil's family is from a higher social class -- his home Corley Court is quite grand in Victorian Gothic manner -- and he is a budding poet who, while at Two Acres, writes a poem in the autograph book of Daphne Sawle that becomes a "classic" of pre- WW1 England in something of the manner of Rupert Brooke's "If I should die . . ." (Brooke is mentioned, as is Lytton Strachey, as Apostles known, though not well, to Cecil and George). But Cecil is the stranger's child in another sense -- after his death in battle in 1916, and after his poems become better known, he becomes in effect the child of strangers, people in later generations who for aesthetic, economic, and sexual reasons are fascinated by his story. The final section of the book, set early in the 21st Century, shows him still an object of fascination. He is, however, never pinned down; he remains a mystery to the end. In the opening section -- the only one in which he is alive -- we are given no access to his inner life. All we know of him we have to infer from the reactions of the Sawle household. "The stranger's child" is also a phrase from Tennyson's "In Memoriam" (T. had also been an "Apostle"), and the section of the poem in which it appears is read by Cecil in the first section of the book.
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114 of 125 people found the following review helpful By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I read The Stranger's Child with some trepidation having not greatly enjoyed Line Of Beauty. I had pigeon holed Alan Hollinghurst as a pompous man who was obsessed by the class system, big houses, Oxbridge and gay sex. After reading the first part of The Stranger's Child, I was reassured to see that my prejudices were well founded. A book I could truly loathe.

But as the novel wore on, something quite subtle happened. It became more and more engrossing - the gradual layering of history; the changing perceptions over time. Cecil the dandy of Part One became a hero, and then a cult and finally a distant and second hand memory. His light burned brightly for a while, but he slipped back to the marginalia of literature.

Hollinghurst's technique is to report very few events in real time. He narrates through set piece parties, gatherings, weekends when conversation turns to past events. This can be frustrating at first (and I don't think it ever stopped being frustrating in Line of Beauty) but it is used to very good effect in The Stranger's Child - allowing different perspectives and allowing changes in perception or opinion over time. This was echoed in Cecil's most famous poem, Two Acres, and his letters - being controlled, edited and drip fed by those holding the documents to amend public perception of the man. By the end, the real Cecil was irrelevant - people each had their own personal agenda to pursue and the memory of the man was manipulated to those ends.

The writing, whilst well done, is not particularly flowery or pompous. The pomposity of the opening sections mellows and by the end, one is prepared to accept that it derives from the characters and situations rather than the author.
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