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3.3 out of 5 stars28
3.3 out of 5 stars
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on 9 September 2008
I decided to buy this book from Amazon, along with the BBC Line of Beauty video, so as to complete my Hollinghurst collection.
I had read Swimming Pool Library and Folding Star a while back and Line of Beauty last year.
The themes are becoming predictable. Cocaine, "e", the London night life, excesses and somewhere an aids death added in.
I disagree with other reviewers: it does ring true. The motivations of the main protagonists become clear, and "family" relations growing from sexual dalliances.
The birthday party at the country cottage in Dorset is clearly the highlight, on which the whole story turns.
Hollinghurst is an accomplished writer, and manages to combine clever social comment with a bit of shagging. A good read on my summer holiday...
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on 10 July 2008
I have just finished reading this book which made me cry as well as laugh and irritated me too with its general shallowness. The novel explores perceptions of the gay lifestyle of sex, drugs, promiscuity, and lack of commitment. Despite Hollinghurst's witty style and insightful descriptions of the human persona, I couldn't engage with any of the main characters all of whom I disliked and found mostly affluent, camp, and sometimes unbelievable. I did finish the book because I wanted to see what happened to Alex. But it left me feeling empty and sad.
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on 22 November 1999
"The Spell" tells the story of four guys whose lives cross paths for various reasons, and how they evolve beyond the beguiling but ultimately false spell of eternal youth. "Growing up from I'm queer! to IKEA" could be the sub-title of the book if it were less subtle and more cliched. Instead, it is well-written, funny and not of the "his pecs glistened in the sunlight" American variety (though for fun it is liberally spiced with some "who shags who").
The spell is cast in the big-city gay scene with its pressure to conform, to be young and virile, and to "have fun!! commit to no-one!". But when do you stop worrying about whether you're "gay" enough, and having enough sex with enough guys, and learn to become happy just being yourself, whatever that may be?
If you've ever been something of a scene queen, especially in London, you'll probably know people like the characters in it. I certainly recognised a few! And some of the descriptions are so accurate they had me reliving some of my own similar experiences.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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on 24 August 2001
I read The Swimming Pool Library a few years back and really enjoyed it, and it seems to have the one thing that is missing from this book: a real story. It's very well written, you can believe that the characters might exist, and it's never really boring, but a)you don't feel any empathy with or sympathy for the characters, and b)the book doesn't go anywhere. It's as if you've read part of a diary that's still ongoing and when you get to the end, you feel that there should be some sort of proper conclusion, which there isn't.
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on 16 March 2012
Dont understand some of the more negative reviews . I picked this up from a charity shop and was hooked from the begining .Magically written , the language just drips off the page and a great aray of characters , some likeable , some not. loved the contrasts between the younger and older men , between town and country and found parts of this story extremely moving , As for the comments re too much sex / porn , please, so much badly written sex out there , this was great . Sex and literature , I was in heaven .
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on 8 September 1999
What a disappointment! I bought "The Spell" after thouroughly enjoying "The Swimming Pool Library" and, even more, "The Folding Star" - one of those precious books where passion is so sensuously depicted and re-enacted. In comparison to it "The Spell" is rather dull: it is well written, of course, (even too well written, so that you get an impression of general artifulness), but it lacks soul and conviction. Its main figures tend to be stereotypes, particularly Justin whom I came to hate from the very start, and the plot is so average that you wonder if the novel was written by the same author. If reading "The Folding Star" I had been in a rush to end it and I "swallowed" it, I really had to force myself not to close "The Spell" after the first fifty pages.
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on 17 December 2013
OK, I'm a big fan of Alan Hollinghurst.

I bought my copy of this book in the Oxfam shop in Chichester last Friday and it took only a few days to finish it.

The characters in this book brought the story to life for me. Some of course have questioned what the story is actually about, but for those of us who have lived in London and been out on the gay scene, partied and generally lived live on our terms not on the morals as prescribed by the Daily Mail, this book captures those times. Albeit some time ago, for this book was published in 1998 - at least my copy was - just at the time when I was leaving London after many years great years of partying in and around London's West End's pubs and clubs.

A really great and enjoyable read.
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on 1 October 2015
It is a good read if you know London and know someone gay or are gay then you will relate to this book. and recognise the characters.

This is so close to the truth and some of the story feels close to home I had to look at the date to make sure it was 10 year before I moved to London. Oddly enough I do work in an office in Whitehall and live in Hammersmith and had a meeting in the hotel lobby Justin stayed in today, the hotel is just how it was written. This book reminded me of my first ventures out into a club when moving to London and all that entailed with vivid memories flooding back. I have met a few Justin's and Danny's which made me feel bitter sweet reading this, but have yet to meet Nick. I will venture out to a club this weekend.
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on 24 March 2011
Well-written, but not as good as his earlier works. Rather vapid gay characters who seem not to have much of a life beyond sex, drugs and partying. I can't imagine much partying going on in a small village near the small town of Bridport and I am not convinced that a young man would be wearing a tank top in 1999, though I gather they made a comeback for a short time.
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on 12 August 1999
Jane Austen lives! Alan Hollinghurst's new novel is a beautifully written, funny and touching account of the lives of four gay men. The descriptions of the club-scene are tellingly accurate, as is the insight into the effects of Ecstasy. But the best part of this book, for me, was the elegant and witty prose which had me chortling out loud again and again! A book to read through at a sitting (shame it wasn't as long as the two previous Hollinghurst novels - both also highly recommended!) with a bottle of wine in a sunny garden!
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