Customer Review

50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A prizewinner . . . but no masterpiece, 14 Mar. 2006
This review is from: The Line of Beauty (Hardcover)
I have to admit that I was prompted to buy this book because of the Booker prize it won. I read "The Swimming Pool Library" and was moved by some of the stylistic fireworks in that, so I was looking forward to some similar stylistic turns in "The Line of Beauty". Hollinghurst certainly delivers style, but little substance, and I felt little sympathy for any of his characters, let alone the principal protagonist, Nick Guest. While descriptions are minute and highly detailed, very little "happens", and in that way I guess the novel can be likened to those of Henry James. However, it has to be said that a great deal of gay sex happens, graphically unnecessary, provoking in this reader a heavy sense of tedium. There is an equally large helping of aesthetic pretention encompassing music, painting and furniture, mainly in the mouth of Mr Guest. Hollinghurst's subtle delineation of a particular stratum of English society at a particular point in time (the 1980s) is very well done, although one is left incredulous when he introduces real characters (Lady Thatcher) into his fictional landscape. Nevertheless, the book is often witty, sometimes savage, expressed in beautifully written prose. Ultimately, one feels little or nothing for the cast of characters, and by the end one is hugely tired of the simpering, vain and smug prat Nick Guest, so that his cum-uppance is something of a delight to be savoured, notwithstanding the highly ambiguous final page, which I read several times trying to work out just what it is that Hollinghurst is saying about Nick's fate. All in all, I'm glad I read it, but it is nowhere near as earth-shattering as some reviewers would have us believe.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Nov 2007 14:55:34 GMT
Spot on review. I heartily disliked Nick Guest and felt no empathy with any of the characters. I read most Booker nominees and this is one that I enjoyed least.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Apr 2009 17:07:43 BDT
J says:
Is it a bad thing if you do not sympathise with every character in every book you read?
Do you only want to read books which make you feel comfortable?
Maybe the author did not want you to sympathise with his characters.
Maybe he wants us to be ambivalent.
Personally although I feel some of Nick Guest's actions are questionable I also found him sympathetic, as a character caught up in a specific set of circumstances - and surely this ambovalence is a key aspect of the human condition.
Your reading is deeply simplistic!

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Oct 2009 10:25:43 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 7 Oct 2009 10:26:55 BDT]
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Philip Hurst
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