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The Stranger's Child Hardcover – 1 Jul 2011
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'Hollinghurst's follow-up to The Line of Beauty, his 2004 Man Booker-Prize winner, is still several months away, but advance word suggests another classic. Following the lives of two families from the eve of WW1 to the close of the 20th century, it promises to be hugely ambitious, deeply affecting and beautifully written. If it's not, we'll eat your copy.' --GQ
'An epic story of two families and two houses spanning the entire 20th century, it promises to enhance its author's claim to the title of best British novelist working at the moment.' --Observer News Review 2011 Preview
'I'm particularly looking forward to the first novel in seven years from Alan Hollinghurst, and the word on the street is that it's every bit as compelling as The Line of Beauty' --Mariella Frostrup, `Stylist' (her number One choice for `2011's Essential Reading')
'Hollinghurst is promising a huge novel for the summer, a tale of two families that ranges from 1913 to the late Noughties.' --Sunday Times 2011 Preview
'I'll definitely be taking Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child, which spans several generations, no doubt in his usual impeccable prose' James Walton
'I'll be packing a copy of Alan Hollinghurst s The Stranger s Child. That's partly because he s the finest prose stylist of his generation, but also because his writing sits so invitingly between the intellectually risky and the sexually risqué' Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
'I loved The Line of Beauty and The Swimming-Pool Library so I am very much looking forward to Alan Hollinghurst s The Stranger's Child, which promises to match his earlier books in both elegance of prose and acuity of psychological insight' Michael Gove --Daily Telegraph's Summer Reading
An intricate, witty, playful meditation on what is now beginning to emerge as one of Hollinghurst s chief concerns: Englishness. Comedy of manners, investigation of class, changing political and social landscape all the reliable pleasures that his fiction offers are here in their dense, detailed richness.... Miraculously handled Hollinghurst set-pieces... It is woven with stupendous deftness, its internal assonances making a complex, comprehensive harmony... A magnificent coherence The Times
Masterful... There is a huge cleverness to the book at a structural and, as it were, managerial level. Characters are named with an aptness which is light-footed and unswervingly accurate... Hollinghurst, as ever, is quietly brilliant about architecture, both in the specific sense of a cultural discourse about buildings, and the broader sense of how people behave in different kinds of place... there is something symphonic about [the novel s] wholeness. There is also something filmic in the book s enveloping embrace; not the heritage cinema of Merchant Ivory et al, but the more experimental, argumentative efforts of the Sixties and Seventies. I often found myself recalling Joseph Losey's version of The Go-Between, and occasionally the anguished exquisites of Michelangelo Antonioni... there s also a lot that is purely and simply very funny Daily Telegraph 4-star review
A showcase for bravura writing. Such praise could be off-putting: the glitter of fine writing often elevates style over substance. Perhaps I should therefore stress straight away that The Stranger s Child is not only written with extraordinary beauty, but is also exceptionally readable and this even though the narrative is fragmented by chronological leaps, the characterisation disrupted by shifts in perspective. The author s imagination is teased by the extent to which we are strangers to each other, and the way in which the past becomes strange to the present. His genius lies in his ability to intrigue the reader, too, suggesting the hinterland of a secret, vivid life, glimpsed out of the corner of the eye, as it were. Hollinghurst is superbly skilled at heightening awareness of the liminal Standpoint magazine
A rollicking ride with biting wit and observant prose. Bring it on --Country & Town House magazine
Alan Hollinghurst's first novel since The Line of Beauty, winner of the 2004 Man Booker PrizeSee all Product description
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Other readers have likened it to Atonement,The Remains of the Day, and The Go-Between: but none of those novels has the historical sweep of this one and the themes, I think, are quite different. It reminded me more of Possession, especially the focus on excavating the literary past and the issue of `owning' the war poet Cecil Valance, but is more impersonal and emotionally detached than that book.
The first section set in the run-up to the first world war is the one most people seem to be talking about but it is worth knowing that this is only one of five and the rest are set in very different times (1926, 1960s, 1980s, 2000s) so that golden, elegiac, Edwardian mood is only one part of the book and, for me, the most vivid and satisfying.
There is something frustratingly episodic and a tad disjointed about the book overall. One of the main threads that pulls the whole thing together is the literature surrounding Cecil Valance: from his own poems in the first section to the biographies, histories, edited collections, edited letters etc. that are based on and which surround him so that we are always dealing, to some extent, with a fictionalising of a personality, rather than the thing itself.
Hollinghurst writes wonderfully well with a crafted ease which never feels overly self-conscious or stretched. But I have to admit I found the whole thing a little oblique and intangible. To some extent one of the themes is the creation and self-fashioning of a literary personality and a past associated with him, and so the book overall can feel a bit insubstantial for all its wide, historical view and large cast of characters.
Overall, then, I liked this book, perhaps more for its style and writing than its actual story, but I didn't love it.
Not having lived in 1913 or 1926 I'm uncertain if the author's depiction of the mores and speech-patterns of those times are accurate. But I do know that the section set in 1967 contains many anachronisms - ('Twist and Shout'? - 1967 was the Summer of Love, not the height of Beatlemania!)and the term 'yonks' was obsolete by 1964. I have no sense of this section being set in a period which had has resonance for me, but perhaps this is because I was neither aristocratic nor homosexual.
However,I will persevere until the end.
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