There are many models of beauty and as old saying goes beauty is in the eye of the beholder There is a classic definition of the line of beauty depicted by Hogarth in his work Analyse of beauty , it s a S shaped double curve, though for Nick, the main protagonist of Alan Hollinghurst novel, the perfect line of beauty creates delicate curve of lover s back.Novel starts in the summer 1983 when young Nick Guest moves into the house of his friend Toby Fedden This part breathes newness and freshness, there is an expectation of love and an air of innocence though the way Nick loses his virginity is far from romanticism Second part brings sophisticated Nick, fatigued in his pursuit of pleasure, rather satiated than fulfilled with love but also a new romance with not so unexpected partner The final chapter is just overshadowed by death and sadness of recognition.I was captivated by that novel though neither the background, political and social, nor protagonists are my thing Alan Hollinghurst s prose is exquisite, sharp and ironic when depicts the Feddens, their friends and relatives and the whole Tory related milieu But we can as well sense the spirit and the mood of E.M Forster and Evelyn Waugh here The same story of a young man from the lower classes seduced by wealthy friends, their beautiful houses, impeccable manners, falsehood and hypocrisy lurking behind the bright facade Though it is Henry James who provides patronage for whole story Henry James whom Nick adores and generously quotes.Nick Guest is not all lovable figure Hedonist, admirer of beauty and connoisseur of art Strangely passive and unreflective, with his mouth packed with platitudes on beauty and style Feddens eternal resident, somehow inept to live on its own, still loyal and attached to the family His attitude bespeaks some kind of emptiness and indolence, emotional immaturity and his search for love and pleasure ends with desperate spasms in the fumes of alcohol and cocaine But towards the end when Nick makes an appearance of perfect scapegoat and in an air of scandal abandons the Feddens house, just then, embracing all spent there years, foreboding years that were yet to come, sensing in fact his absence, only then has finally brief vision of clear beauty.4,5 5 3.5 stars rounded upBooker prize winner in 2004, Hollinghurst writes about the 1980s and particularly about Thatcher s Britain and the onset of HIV AIDS It is the story of Nick Guest, a young gay man from a middle class background He meets the son Toby of a rising Tory MP Gerald Fedden at Oxford and after graduating moves in with Toby s family as a lodger.The backdrop is London of the 1980s Nick moves in glamorous circles and the line of beauty goes back to Hogarth s s shaped curve in his book It runs through the book via Henry James, Nick is studying him at post grad level to cocaine another beautiful line in the book and on to the concept of beauty in physical terms For Nick this is male beauty Against the glamour and the wealth is a political backdrop of the conservatives in power The shadow of Thatcher is never far away as Gerald works hard to ingratiate himself and gain political power Nick s sexuality is also to the fore as we follow him through two relationships with Leo who is black and working class and Wani who is very rich and Lebanese The spectre of AIDS gradually grows as the book goes on, although it does not really affect the Fedden s and their political circles, nor the sections of the upper class they mix with It s all beautifully written and Hollinghurst captures an aspect of the culture of the time very well Nick is an amiable narrator who seems to drift through the book without being too greatly affected by it all Inevitably comparisons have been made with other works I can see the similarities to Brideshead Revisited, less so to Maurice The obvious comparison is to Powell s Dance to the Music of Time series, but it doesn t have the scope and depth Powell gave to his series There was, for me, hollowness at the centre Nick is amiable, but for me his character is summed up by an incident near the end of the book He goes into a bar and sees someone he had a relationship with earlier in the book This someone is gaunt, very ill, and dying of an AIDS related illness Nick avoids him and manages to leave without being seen He manages to drift through the lives of the Fedden s and their circle with few moral qualms I do remember the 80s I was living in the north of England, mostly in working class and mining areas the Tories and Thatcher were the enemy It was difficult to engage with any of the characters, apart from Leo but it does capture a place and time. Sometimes one has to admit that one s preconceptions about a book are entirely wrong Despite having read most of the Booker winners I had been oddly reluctant to tackle this one, partly because I had heard about its graphic descriptions of gay sex and that is just not a subject that interests me This book confounded such baseless expectations, and the final part in particular is very moving I can t really do justice to the book in a short review, for which I apologise.This story of Nick Guest, a young man whose position as a lodger in the house of a Tory MP in Kensington puts him at the periphery of various powerful circles at the height of the Thatcher government in the 80s, works on many different levels On the surface it is a study of these elites, how they operate and how ruthlessly they ditch those who no longer serve them, on another it is a gay coming of age story, in which the shadow of AIDS inevitabily looms, and a third is as a tribute to Henry James I was struck by a paragraph where Nick is trying to justify his vision of an artistic film of a James book The Spoils of Poynton to a rich but philistine potential backer who has just told him that the story kinda sucks Does it said Nick and, trying to be charming, It s just like life, though, isn t it maybe too like life for a conventional movie It s about someone who loves things than people And who ends up with nothing, of course I know it s bleak, but then I think it s probably a very bleak book, even though it s essentially a comedy Nick could equally be talking about the book in which he is the central character, which does contain some brilliant satire, but is ultimately rather tragic. It makes me angry that I don t know much about U.S history, modern U.S history and British history Fuggedaboutit I wish I knew about the Thatcher administration since the novel is coupled with those years as efficiently as THE HUMAN STAIN goes hand in hand with the Lewinski scandal One must know how much pathos is ingrained in these particular events from not too long agosince it adds the requisite magic to elevate them, these modern classics.It s about gay sex drugs, the 1980 s financial power The politics do take second stage with grace What s not to love Insanely sexy and exquisitely old fashioned it has the clout of Henry James too, it s somewhat difficult to read, but that s why it s all the exquisite , THE LINE OF BEAUTY has all the best of what American Bret Easton Ellis has to offer in the world of risque lit., plus a distinguished, intelligent language of its own, a master s effortlessness with prose form I must say that politics aside, the story is BRIDESHEAD REVISITED 2.0 What was never shown in that particular work of British manners and bourgeois life is found nestled here Thank god for the Modern Age The author tells the story of the London life of the 1980s seen by the eyes of Nick Guest, a young man seduced by the discovery of homosexuality and luxury of life in the English high society under Margaret Thatcher.Settled in a politician Nick leads a life of parasite He is the lover of the son of a Lebanese magnate, full of ace, drugged with cocaine He has an easy life All the shots of the homosexual milieu are described without false modesty.AIDS casts a dark note towards the end of the story, with its share of suffering and betrayal gaining center stage, while the trap of intrigue is put in place. Update The BBC World Book Club podcast with Alan Hollinghurst, in which he talks about this novel, is available now at and I make a brief appearance with a question about 42 minutes into the programme Just FYI Review below from October 2014 I wanted to savour every word in this novel I alternately dragged out the reading experience to relish the language, and sped through sections because I felt greedy and impatient and wanted to see what linguistic marvels Alan Hollinghurst could produce next.The story is centered round an upper middle class family in London, whose son of the house, Toby, has a friend, Nick, stay over at the family s posh Kensington home a situation that lasts longer than any of them had expected and which has consequences for all During this same period, Nick can no longer ignore his own homosexuality and begins a guilt ridden yet thrilling exploration of it As in The Swimming Pool Library and the Stranger s Child, there isn t in my view much plot in The Line of Beauty It is largely composed of scenes and situations, a satire of rich people and politicians as experienced by the protagonist Nick Guest, who indeed feels like a guest in the privileged lives he witnesses but never quite belongs to The novel paints a picture of the 1980s and of Thatcher s Britain as seen from the perspective of a young man, who can t quite find his feet or a sense of purpose in life, and towards the end it also becomes a story about AIDS That said, the story didn t really get underway, or become interesting, to me until almost 300 pages into the book, exactly the opposite of The Stranger s Child where I loved the first few hundred pages and then not so much the rest Hollinghurst has the uncanny ability to turn even base, human emotions into beautiful, lyrical prose which time and again made me stop and wonder at his incredible skill But it isn t just the words It is also his insight into human psychology, his knowingness when it comes to human stupidity, triumphs and pretensions, his ability to observe and name every little tic, gesture and hidden meaning which conversations in society are so full of Where Zadie Smith captures the characteristics of some of the conversations belonging to London s NW, Hollinghurst captures those of the privileged classes, and these parts were amazing a comedy of manners almost.To me, this is some of the most beautiful English prose in contemporary English literature And yet, at the same time, there isn t a single character that I really invested in Especially the main character felt rather anemic to me, pathetic even, in his strange insistence on politeness without integrity, which of course sets off the shallowness of some of the other characters but still had the effect that there was no one to root for I m still wondering what the intended effect was exactly Perhaps what I love most about his style is how it is the complete antithesis to the much praised Scandinavian minimalism that I feel surrounded by living in Denmark , and for that alone I applaud him Hollinghurst is inspired by writers like Forster and James, whose works were written a hundred years ago or , and even if I was not exactly bowled over by his story, there were times where I almost wanted to weep at the exquisiteness of his prose, his lines of beauty 2 3 stars for the story, 5 stars for the language, leaving me a little above 3,5 So difficult to rate sometimes 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. Alan Hollinghurst s prose is simply beautiful His words make made me breathless even if his milieu is something that I am not very familiar with London in the eighties His prose is so beautiful that I felt that I would never be able to write a novel myself Hollinghurst is like a god in the Olympus and I am just a mortal slave and I am not even worthy to kiss the ground he steps on It is so beautiful, I felt like putting it at the altar stare at pray that it would inspire me to continue writing that little novel that I have started writing after attending a novel writing workshop three months ago Line of Beauty is a 2004 Booker Prize winning novel by Alan Hollinghurst It is about gay men, most of them rich, in Thatcherite Britain in the early to mid 80 s It is the first gay themed book that won the Booker Based on Wiki, the composition of the panel of judges changes every year so maybe its members were predominantly gays during that year since 2 the other was Colm Toibin s The Master of the 6 finalist books are gay themed and this one won over the stylist and my favorite David Mitchell s Cloud Atlas Prior to reading Beauty , I already read Cloud and The Master and both gave them 4 stars I liked the brilliant structure of Cloud and the ethereal prose of The Master and they did not prepare me to the fact that there is still a better book than them and that is this Hollinghurst book I agree with the Booker jurors Line of Beauty is taut and cohesive It is neither pretentious nor self serving It tells the story flawlessly like there is no story worth telling than those of the characters in it The plot is focused, crystal clear in sharpness that it is illuminating and mesmerizing It tells the story of Nick Guest a 21 y o virgin gay who just graduated from Oxford and is currently working on his analysis of Henry James works for his masteral degree Interestingly, Toibin s finalist book, The Master is the retelling of the early part of Henry James life Nick is invited by his fellow Oxford graduate and secret crush, a straight man, Toby to stay in the attic of their beautiful London upper class house Toby still lives with the rest of the Feddens his father Gerald, mother Rachel and his bi polar sister Catherine What follows is the 4 5 year awakening of Nick from the na ve and almost clueless Oxford graduate to somebody who s aware of what s going on in his surroundings He ends up looking at the stark realities of London s life in the 80s being gay and relatively poor amidst the highly materialistic and generally homophobic London upper class society All these punctuated by the emerging threat of AIDS that spread like wildfire in the 80 s in all countries and levels of society.It will be outright dishonesty if I say that I really liked this book because of its gay theme The homosexual acts are just too much for my taste However, I am not familiar with the sex lives of gay people and I don t have any idea how frequent an average gay man gets laid or needs to get laid for him to have a sexually fulfilling life I am not sure if Hollinghurst only wants to project an honest to goodness portrayal of the lives of gay men in the London in the 80 s but the language he used in this novel could be too much for some readers It was a bit shocking for me considering that this is a Booker winner However, if you look over this supposedly honest language and portrayal and focus on the prose, theme, plot and character development, you will see the beauty in the novel as a whole I am just not sure about the metaphor of the double S being the so called line of beauty since I have not seen not that I am looking a man with that curve all my life.Thanks to Angus for being my buddy read for this book You rock, Eng ghez Be Forewarned This well written society critique and winner of the 2004 Man Booker prize will bore the pants off you unless you are deeply interested in class struggle, gayness, politics, ethnicity, and AIDs, the intersection of in England in the mid to late 80s Oh, and antiques Talk about a niche It was one of two books I brought on my 20 hour flight to Singapore, where I was planning on enjoying, at long last, some time to myself to read About 50 pages into it, my mind cried, Noooooo and I was resigned to watching the full catalog of international TV comedies Hum Paanch, anyone on Singapore Airline s TV on demand Thanks a lot, Man Booker Prize committee An unusually powerful and deserving winner of the Man Book Prize, this is one of the few books that took me over a year to read, not because it was ever boring or sluggish, but because each sentence was so beautiful, I wanted to give every passage its due attention I rarely say such things about books, so Hollinghurst must be a magician or a hypnotist As it took me so long to read, I spent an embarrassing amount of time repeating to people who asked me what I was reading that it was Line of Beauty, about a young homosexual during Thatcher s 80s England, staying at his straight friend s home, making a life for himself after Oxford, and that they just had to read it In fact, after I d caught myself recommending it to him for the second or even third time, my doctor no longer asks me what I m reading he must think I actually don t read many books after all or that I have a secret agenda to get him to come out of the closet My brother said it d been done before, the story of a scholarship student in a world he doesn t belong in But this isn t just about a middle class boy in the rarefied world of Oxford, a servant among lords, a homosexual in a straight family, a liberal among conservatives, or young adults finding the harshness of reality after the college cocoon Hollinghurst s social wit gently reveals the absurdity in each one of his characters Hollinghurst is above all a humane and empathetic author, not a writer of British manners or a writer of gay literature That the Booker committee awarded him their prize makes me forgive them for every horrendous mistake they ve made in the years since Sometimes, they do get it right as they did with Coetzee.
- 438 pages
- The Line of Beauty
- Alan Hollinghurst
- 05 December 2019 Alan Hollinghurst