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The Stranger's Childby Alan Hollinghurst
Synopses & Reviews
From the Man Booker Prize–winning author of The Line of Beauty: a magnificent, century-spanning saga about a love triangle that spawns a myth, and a family mystery, across generations.
In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge schoolmate — a handsome, aristocratic young poet named Cecil Valance — to his family's modest home outside London for the weekend. George is enthralled by Cecil, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by him and the stories he tells about Corley Court, the country estate he is heir to. But what Cecil writes in Daphne's autograph album will change their and their families' lives forever: a poem that, after Cecil is killed in the Great War and his reputation burnished, will become a touchstone for a generation, a work recited by every schoolchild in England. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as other secrets lie buried — until, decades later, an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them.
Rich with Hollinghurst's signature gifts — haunting sensuality, delicious wit and exquisite lyricism — The Stranger's Child is a tour de force: a masterly novel about the lingering power of desire, how the heart creates its own history, and how legends are made.
"Hollinghurst, author of the Man Booker Prize — winning The Line of Beauty, published seven years ago, stakes his claim for Most Puckishly Bemused English Novelist with this rambunctious stepchild to the mannered satires of Henry Green, E.M. Forster, and especially Evelyn Waugh. Fancy young George Sawle returns from Cambridge in 1913 to his family estate of Two Acres in the company of the dashing poet Cecil Valance, secretly his lover. Cecil enjoys success and popularity wherever he goes, and George's precocious sister, Daphne, falls under his spell. To her he gives a poem about Two Acres, a work whose reputation will outlive Cecil, for he is fated to perish in WWI. Hollinghurst then jumps ahead to Daphne's marriage to Cecil's brother Dudley and commences the series of generation-spanning indiscretions and revisionist biographies that complicate Cecil's legacy: he is variously a rebel, a tedious war poet, and, possibly, the father of Daphne's daughter. Time plays havoc with fashions, relationships, and sexual orientation; the joke is on the legions of memoirists, professors, and literary treasure hunters whose entanglements with eyewitnesses produce something too fickle and impermanent to be called legend. Hollinghurst's novel, meanwhile, could hardly be called overserious, but nearly 100 years of bedroom comedy is a lot to keep up with, and the author struggles at times to maintain endless amusement over the course of the five installments that make up this book. But convolution is part of the point. A sweet tweaking of English literature's foppish little cheeks by a distinctly 21st-century hand. Longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The Stranger's Child is something of a dichotomy: epic in scope, but minute in its details....To say it is eagerly awaited is like saying JK Rowling is a tad popular....The Stranger's Child does not disappoint. A study on fame and the passing of time, it is as compulsive as anything [Hollinghurst has] written. It begins with a weekend at the Sawles' family home in 1913, and the arrival of a poet named Cecil Valance who writes a poem that becomes lauded after Winston Churchill quotes from it. Over the following decades, a variety of journalists and biographers try to piece together what happened that weekend to inspire such a book....Buy it, then relish and bathe in every word. [This] novel warrant[s] obsessive appreciation of every line." James Mullinger, GQ (UK)
"[Alan Hollinghurst,] the author of The Line of Beauty (2004), writes like Henry James, but without the obfuscation; his gorgeous sentences home in on the delicate nuances of human relationships but don't sacrifice the larger social canvas along the way. In this novel, he follows a wealthy British family as its members negotiate the post-World War I landscape. Imagine a faster-paced and slyer Masterpiece Theatre production, with homoerotic interludes." Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
"With the prewar ambiance of Atonement, the manor-house mystique of Gosford Park, and the palpable sexual tension of Hollinghurst's own The Line of Beauty, this generously paced, thoroughly satisfying novel will gladden the hearts of Anglophile readers." Barbara Love, Library Journal
About the Author
Alan Hollinghurst is the author of the novels The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star, The Spell and The Line of Beauty, which won the Man Booker Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. 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. He lives in London.
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