18 August 2011

the stranger's child

Finally finished ploughing through Alan Hollinghurst's newest tome (although ploughing suggests it was laborious, which it was anything but). I definitely recommend it, for me it was even better than The Line of Beauty and The Folding Star.

I won't toil through the plot too closely, just read it if you're interested, but it's divided into five parts and spans from 1913 to 2008, and like his previous works, it's focussed on upper class, highly educated literary sorts, and the main theme, for me, is the evolution of a literary reputation, in this case, of Cecil Valance, a poet who dies in the first world war whose fairly second-class poetry is subsequently romanticised by his death. The principle character, whose perspective is rarely the one the reader is privy to, is Daphne Sawle, unusually a female, as Hollinghurst's previous books have been notably short on female characters and certainly female perspectives.

It's a stunning book, a much more literary read than I'm used to, I feel more intelligent and self-aware just from reading it. It's also unquestionably queer as well, less forcibly so than his last books, and with less implicit sex, but I'd say 90% of the males are either definitely gay, bisexual or sexually ambiguous. But this isn't gratuitous, the fluidity of sexuality is an important aspect of the plot.

I was lucky enough to attend a book reading by Alan Hollinghurst at the New Bloomsbury Set which was hosted by Gay's the Word bookshop. He was a great reader, very funny and quite self-effacing as well. He also signed my copy of the book too.

Anyhoo, I definitely recommend this if you want something quite heavy to get your teeth into, it's extremely rewarding and the flow of the prose, as ever, is poetic.

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