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The Line of Beauty Paperback – 1 Apr 2005
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Luminous... [an] astonishingly Jamesian novel, a crafty, glittering, sidelong bid by a contemporary master of English prose to be considered heir to James himself. For a novel that spans only four years, 1983 to 1987, it seems to encompass a world as capacious as any in a James novel. (The Times)
There is something memorable on every page... there is much to savour in The Line of Beauty, not least its humour, a shivering yet morally exacting satire that leaves no character untouched. (Times Literary Supplement)
Superb . . . Alan Hollinghurst is in the prime of his writing life, and the immaculate rolling cadences of his new novel are right now the keenest pleasure English prose has to offer. (Daily Telegraph)
Quite simply a joy to read. It is solid and traditional, beautifully crafted. A quiet masterpiece. (Scotland on Sunday)
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2004, The Line of Beauty is a perfectly realized tale of our times.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
Courageously written in third person narrator spanning four years in Thatcher years, it tracks the experience of a middle-class (emphasis on his class) fresh-out-of-university Nick who starts boarding in one of his affluent friend's house in Kensington. Between holidays in rural France, clocking up boyfriends (secretly), and paryting with the rich and the powerful (it's boom time for the Tories!) he graduates slickly from a tagalong to a self-fashioned aesthetic advisor, and smugly, mistakenly believes he has become one of them: an Insider. Then he missteps or rather finds himself at the wrong end, the chips fall, and he is promptly shown the door. Around this misunderstanding of intimacies and loyalties, he witnesses some of his paramours swallowed whole by the raging AIDS epidemic.
I found Nick to be a very curious narrator and was absolutely bewitched by his contradictions. He is, at heart, a deeply sensitive man with a penchant to appreciate beauty of the surfaces, art, architecture, with a repertoire of appreciating ranging from Henry James' poised prose all the way to the contrapuntal beauty in Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances. And yet, other than a literal extrapolation of this sensitivity to his gaze at the male anatomy, his engagement with the people and enquiry into his own behaviour remains detached, analytical and oddly passive for a good two-thirds of the book. This makes him a phenomenally interesting protagonist: who in equal parts enticed and indifferent, is traipsing through the aisles of high-life, casually soaking the decadence without letting the moral radar prod through. Despite being given a credible eye for surfaces, Hollinghurst has packed him chockfull with deep interiorities. And the result is that the book reads very deeply.
Suffice to say, I have found in Hollinghurst a master prose stylist absolutely in control of all the elements: literal, tonal, subtextual which means that the literalities do not matter for the longest of times, even though the author has painstakingly researched and concealed this research to let the characters breathe and the reader feel their company and the times they live in. There is not a sentence wasted or spent wandering. In what could be termed a traditional manner of constructing and delivering big novels, little character and event details mentioned quietly like leitmotifs in the initial pages are made to gradually develop, seemingly organically over the four years (but obviously the author is pulling the strings) and made to come together to form a climactic movement in the foreground that wrenches an ephiphany and an emotion out of his reader, almost like a musical symphony.
Rest assured I’d be returning to this book for the sheer brilliance of the writing performance and an offensively high number of quotable lines. Bravo!
The comedic skill of Alan Hollinghurst makes the reader laugh and cry at the same time. The hedonistic lifestyle of Nick Guest is revealed to the reader but may surprise some of his fellow characters. Oxford student Nick appears to be a sophisticated together guy, but his life is spiralling out of control with his relationships and cocaine use. Nick seems to be a character that it would be hard to like but through his willingness to please, he wins over the empathy of the reader, sadly for Nick things don't always go his way.
The novel deals with homosexuality, AIDS, the 1980's period and Thatcherism, as the predominant themes, these are also present in other novels by Hollinghurst such as The Fading Star which won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1994.
Hollinghurst's writing is a joy to read in this well crafted and refreshingly honest story, in which the reader is given an open window into the hidden liberal lifestyle of Nick Guest. Sometimes explicit, but always written with sophisticated style, you may find the novel startlingly frank, laugh out loud funny and thought provoking. Acclaimed by critics and readers alike and with Hollinghurst's pedigree as a contemporary novelist, it is no surprise that The Line of Beauty was nominated and subsequently won the Man Booker Prize in 2004.
Definitely a must read!
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