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The Line of Beautyby Alan Hollinghurst
2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction
"[Hollinghurst's] best writing is more disciplined than this, more subtly melded of its thematic constituents, and above all more profound, more truly Jamesian in its treatment of the ordeals of consciousness. Nonetheless, 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 and finally consumes the grotesques whose odiousness it has so generously indulged. Equally and characteristically, there is the stinging precision of its prose, a near-poetic aptitude for producing the very thing its title tantalizingly portends." Henry Hitching, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement reveiw)
"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. But it's also an explicitly gay novel....All this should produce a complex reception for the Booker winner. In some quarters, the novel's triumph will be a late vindication for gay literature. Others will fret over the shocking sex scenes. But anyone who reads The Line of Beauty will come face to face with one of the most brilliant stylists and perceptive novelists writing today." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire Christian Science Monitor review)
"Hollinghurst's prose is a genuine achievement — lavish, poised, sinuously alert. His sentences are rich but not languid. He is an aesthete who finally avoids aestheticism, partly because, in a characteristic Jamesian swerve, he is morally suspicious of an aestheticism whose charms he also swayingly registers. His writing is most Jamesian, perhaps, in its constant air of poised intelligence..." James Wood, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby — whom Nick had idolized at Oxford — and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions.
As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innocent in the world of politics and money, finds his life altered by the rising fortunes of this glamorous family. His two vividly contrasting love affairs, one with a young black clerk and one with a Lebanese millionaire, dramatize the dangers and rewards of his own private pursuit of beauty, a pursuit as compelling to Nick as the desire for power and riches among his friends. Richly textured, emotionally charged, disarmingly comic, this is a major work by one of our finest writers.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Edmund White has said that Alan Hollinghurst 'writes the best prose we have today.' I might not go that far...but if you value style, wit and social satire in your reading, don't miss this elegant and passionate novel." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"Hollinghurst is most striking here for his successful, often damning, observations about the vast divides between the ruling class and everyone else....A beautifully realized portrait of a decade and a social class, but without a well-developed emotional core." Kirkus Reviews
"The Line of Beauty gets Nick and his decade so right that you can't help wondering what sort of vision Hollinghurst may deliver of our own far-too-interesting times, 20 years hence." Seattle Times
"It is only worrisome that The Line of Beauty, one of the most mentally nurturing reads this year, is so similar to The Swimming-Pool Library; one hopes that Hollinghurst, who should be beloved, will take us farther afield in the future." Los Angeles Times
"Must rank among the funniest [novels] ever written about Thatcher's Britain, whhile remaining one of the most tragically sad." Financial Times
"Hollinghurst proves to be one of the sharpest observers of privileged social grroupings since Anthony Powell." Guardian
"A classic of our times.The work of a great English stylist in full maturity; a masterpiece." Observer
"Wonderful... almost unbelievably well-written. In its dazzling, very contemporrary way, the book is tragic.But it is also consistently funny." Spectator
"Luminous...a crafty, glittering, sidelong bid by a contemporary master of Engliish prose to be considered heir to James himself." The Times
"Exquisitely written...Its delights and rewards extend beyond its comic or docummentary achievements." Sunday Times
"A richly literate, ambitious piece of work....deserves to be widely read." Evening Standard
"Stunning...[A] joy to read. It is solid and traditional, beautifully crafted — a quiet masterpiece." Scotland on Sunday
"Hollinghurst writes harsh but deeply informed social satire, just as Proust diid. He writes the best prose we have today." Edmund White
"There is something memorable on every page...a shivering yet morally exacting ssatire that leaves no character untouched." Times Literary Supplement
"Vast scope...smart, funny, and for all its vividly engaging ways, a pretty souund document of the times." GQ
"Hollinghurst proves to be one of the sharpest observers of privileged social groupings since Anthony Powell....For the first time, there is a clear sense that Hollinghurst has extended his powers to create a universe rather than a clique; and though it adopts a highly privileged perspective, the novel has sufficient breadth to evoke the full social spectrum of 1980s Britain — gay and straight, rich and poor." Alfred Hickling, Guardian (London)
"No one writes novels better than Hollinghurst; he puts together books that are like pieces of furniture made without nails. Here he dramatizes with innumerable apt details and intricate plotting a whole household meant to stand for the Thatcher era....Things move along in this tour de force at a rapid pace...: a large cast of sharply drawn characters comes in and out; one dazzling set piece succeeds another; the dialogue is so good you want to hear actors deliver it on film....The writing has never been sharper...." Andrew Holleran
"As a novelist, Alan Hollinghurst's has set himself an intimidating standard....To say, then, that his latest novel, the Booker Prize-winning LINE OF BEAUTY, is also his finest should give some idea of its accomplishment, not just in the breadth of its ambition but in its felicities of observation and expression....Despite Nick's sexual adventures, the novel marks a change from Hollinghurst's predominantly homocentric fiction. In fact, female characters, hitherto felt by some readers as a decided absence, are among the liveliest here....Although it gathers ominously in mood, The Line of Beauty feels more blissful than baleful in its anatomy of the era because it is, among other things, a magnificent comedy of manners." Anthony Quinn, New York Times Book Review
THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER, WINNER OF THE 2004 MAN BOOKER PRIZE FOR FICTION, AND NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST
Winner of 2004s Man Booker Prize for fiction and one of the most talked about books of the year, The Line of Beauty is a sweeping novel about class, sex, and money that brings Thatchers London alive.
A New York Times Bestseller (Extended) · A LA Times Bestseller List · A Book Sense National Bestseller · A Northern California Bestseller · A Sunday Times Bestseller List · A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
And chosen as one of the best books of 2004 by:
Entertainment Weekly · The Washington Post · The San Francisco Chronicle · The Seattle Times
Newsday · Salon.com · The Boston Globe · The New York Sun · The Miami Herald · The Dallas Morning News · San Jose Mercury News · Publishers Weekly
In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby-whom Nick had idolized at Oxford-and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions.
As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innocent in the world of politics and money, finds his life altered by the rising fortunes of this glamorous family. His two vividly contrasting love affairs, one with a young black clerk and one with a Lebanese millionaire, dramatize the dangers and rewards of his own private pursuit of beauty, a pursuit as compelling to Nick as the desire for power and riches among his friends. Richly textured, emotionally charged, disarmingly comic, this U.K. bestseller is a major work by one of our finest writers.
About the Author
Alan Hollinghurst is the author of three novels, The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star, and The Spell. He lives in London.
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