3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A sublime novel............,
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This review is from: The Stranger's Child (Hardcover)
A sublime novel, beautifully written, plotted and structured. It's also totally involving - I haven't been so gripped by a novel since I read 'The Woman in White', and that's intended as a compliment to Mr Hollinghurst. The novel traces, over almost one hundred years, the story of a poem ('Two Acres') the poet who wrote it, Cecil Valance, and the girl who loved him, Daphne Sawle, and assorted other characters: one of the pleasures is learning which characters have survived and which have died in the intervals of time between the novel's five sections. Cecil, who dies in WW1, becomes a national treasure whose verses are learned at school, but he was gay and one of the novel's many themes is the way attitudes towards homosexuality change over time and how increasing openess means that the poem's secret gay subtext/history can be revealed and discussed publicly. There are many vividly drawn characters, some great party scenes, many literary jokes and a lot of enjoyable social comedy. There is also some pleasurable satire at the expense of literary biography. A realist novel and an enjoyably habitable one. The ending, in which an artefact of historical value & emotional weight is randomly destroyed by the stranger's child, is very powerful & affecting. At the novel's heart is a poignant account of lives ruined by homophobia and social convention - of lost loves and wasted lives.