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Alan Hollinghurst is the author of The Swimming-Pool Library and The Spell. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award, the E. M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. His most recent novel, The Line of Beauty, won the Man Booker Prize for fiction and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in London.
Among its other wonders, this almost perfectly written novel, recently longlisted for the Mann Booker, delineates what's arguably the most coruscating portrait of a plutocracy since Goya painted the Spanish Bourbons. To shade in the nuances of class, Hollingsworth uses plot the way it was meant to be used-not as a line of utility, but as a thematically connected sequence of events that creates its own mini-value system and symbols. The book is divided into three sections, dated 1983, 1986 and 1987. The protagonist, Nick Guest, is a James scholar in the making and a tripper in the fast gay culture of the time. The first section shows Nick moving into the Notting Hill mansion of Gerald Fedden, one of Thatcher's Tory MPs, at the request of the minister's son, Toby, Nick's all-too-straight Oxford crush. Nick becomes Toby's sister Catherine's confidante, securing his place in the house, and loses his virginity spectacularly to Leo, a black council worker. The next section jumps the reader ahead to a more sophisticated Nick. Leo has dropped out of the picture; cocaine, three-ways and another Oxford alum, the sinisterly alluring, wealthy Lebanese Wani Ouradi, have taken his place. Nick is dimly aware of running too many risks with Wani, and becomes accidentally aware that Gerald is running a few, too. Disaster comes in 1987, with a media scandal that engulfs Gerald and then entangles Nick. While Hollinghurst's story has the true feel of Jamesian drama, it is the authorial intelligence illuminating otherwise trivial pieces of story business so as to make them seem alive and mysteriously significant that gives the most pleasure. This is Nick coming home for the first and only time with the closeted Leo: "there were two front doors set side by side in the shallow recess of the porch. Leo applied himself to the right hand one, and it was one of those locks that require tender probings and tuggings, infinitesimal withdrawals, to get the key to turn." This novel has the air of a classic. Agent, Emma Parry. (Oct.) Forecast: Widely praised for his three previous novels, Hollinghurst (The Swimming-Pool Library) is primed for even greater acclaim and sales with this masterful volume, the latest in a wave of Jamesian novels. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"Almost perfectly written.this novel has the air of a classic." "One can't get enough of Hollinghurst's sentences.If you value style, wit, and social satire in your reading, don't miss this elegant and passionate novel." "Hollinghurst has placed his gay protagonist within a larger social context, and the result is his most tender and powerful novel to date, a sprawling and haunting elegy to the 1980s. A" "A magnificent comedy of manners. Hollinghurst's alertness to the tiniest social and tonal shifts never slackens, and positively luxuriates in a number of unimprovably droll set pieces.[an] outstanding novel." "Line for line, Hollinghurst's novel about London during the 1980s is the most exquisitely written book I've read in years. Witty observations about politics, society, and family open like little revelations on every page." "Mr. Hollinghurst's great gift as a novelist is for social satire as sharp and transparent as glass, catching his quarry from an angle just an inch to the left of the view they themselves would catch in the mantelpiece mirror.The Line of Beauty is unlikely to be surpassed." "Almost perfectly written...this novel has the air of a classic."