In the late summer of 1913 the aristocratic young poet Cecil Valance comes to stay at ‘Two Acres’, the home of his close Cambridge friend George Sawle. The weekend will be one of excitements and confusions for all the Sawles, but it is on George’s sixteen-year-old sister Daphne that it will have the most lasting impact, when Cecil writes her a poem which will become a touchstone for a generation, an evocation of an England about to change for ever. Linking the Sawle and Valance families irrevocably, the shared intimacies of this weekend become legendary events in a larger story, told and interpreted in different ways over the coming century, and subjected to the scrutiny of critics and biographers with their own agendas and anxieties. In a sequence of widely separated episodes we follow the two families through startling changes in fortune and circumstance. At the centre of this often richly comic history of sexual mores and literary reputation runs the story of Daphne, from innocent girlhood to wary old age.
Around her Hollinghurst draws an absorbing picture of an England constantly in flux. As in The Line of Beauty, his impeccably nuanced exploration of changing taste, class and social etiquette is conveyed in deliciously witty and observant prose. Exposing our secret longings to the shocks and surprises of time, The Stranger's Child is an enthralling novel from one of the finest writers in the English language.
©2011 Alan Hollinghurst (P)2011 Macmillan Digital Audio
I was really looking forward to listening to this audiobook as it sounded like the perfect plot for me - a modern Brideshead Revisited - but the narration was so irritating (especially the depiction of the Cecil character and the women) with the inflections of the teenage Daphne completely wrong - that I had to stop listening after 7 chapters. Very disappointing. I kept trying to listen to this audiobook but I just couldn't finish it, although I really wanted to. With a different narrator I think I would have enjoyed this book far more. Even if they had used multiple narrators - two for the female characters, two for the male - it probably would have been better, but this single narrator couldn't manage all the voices and it just ended up being very grating.
I was incredibly fascinated by the themes of biography, memory and memoir. I found the narration terrible, largely because all the characters seemed terribly trivialised and I suspect this wasn't wholly due to the writing, but rather the delivery.
I found Daphne's character the most fascinating, but I felt Hollinghurst lost interest with her. He exploited her naivity at the end, but I didn't really believe that a character who had negotiated so many complex relationships would be that naive.
I struggled with each transition, firstly to place the characters, but then to care about them. And then I felt Hollinghurst deliberately undermined any affection that might develop on behalf of the reader, though I wasn't sure why. Having said that I thought the structure was incredibly intriguing, and it was effective.
No, because the structure means it contains its own sequels.
A really interesting, engaging novel which beautifully examines how in any family, or group of people there are many different versions of 'the truth'. So many of us have 'hidden histories', the 'official' 'stories' of our lives, and the 'real' stories of our lives. Love, lust, passion, and sexuality can be such powerful determinates of our behaviour in the present - but the passage of time can make these forces all but invisible .....................especially when repression, disapproval, and discrimination combine to cover up the 'real' 'truth'(s). Download and enjoy............
"Murder by Narrator"
This is most definitely a book to read not hear. The reader offers a poor delivery and his 'voices' are almost identical plus there's not enough edge in his delivery to give the text the distinctive authoritative feel that I feel Hollinghurst's writing deserves. Truly a missed opportunity.
"Some Beautiful Lines..."
...of poetry lie at the heart of this story, which should entrance anyone who likes the kind of tale that invokes the other England of a century ago and traces a path through to the present. There are shades of 'Any Human Heart', and Sebastian Faulks' work; Hollinghurst's prose is measured and precise, full of insights and subtle witticisms, and the reading did it ample justice. In fact I was so impressed that I looked for other books narrated by JDW, though on inspection the rest of his oeuvre seems to be a completely different kettle of less appealing fish.
"Really enjoyable listening"
This is a brilliantly written book and I didn't have a lot of the concerns that others had about the detail and description of the conversations and social gatherings. On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed the precision and elegance of the language and the understatement of the writing. There have been several negative comments about the reading which seem to me to be very unfair, since I did not agree at all. I thought the reader was very easy to listen to, added just enough characterisation and drama to separate characters without hamming it up as some narrators tend to do. As such, I think Wilson does justice to the novel. Our reasons for liking or disliking a narrators voice is terribly personal and in this case I really don't understand what could possibly have upset some of the other reviewers so badly and I wouldn't let those comments deter you from buying this impressive novel.
"Probably a great book - but TERRIBLE reader."
Alan Hollinghurst is a wonderful writer - but you would never know it from this reading. It is such a shame that this book - on the Booker Prize list - has not been given to a narrator who can do it justice. I have to say it is really UNBEARABLE to listen to. It is like a seven year old reading - except it isn't! The narrator is slow, inexpressive, hesitant and sounds as though he has never read a book aloud before. Just terrible. I am so disappointed to have spent a credit on it - as I really can't bear to listen to anymore (I've tried for two painful hours)
"One more vote for the narrator"
This just goes to show that taste in narrators is very personal - which is why it is a good idea to listen to the preview. I thought he had an excellent differentiation between voices.
Really dull. Confusing switch between time periods and seemingly endless descriptions and dull conversation. Have to keep replaying sections to work out what's going on. Think I keep falling asleep! Not finished listening to it all yet, but it's such hard work already I just had to warn others. Maybe the previous reviewer was right, this is a book to read NOT listen to. Sad I wasted one of my monthly membership credits on it. Disappointing.
This travels a similar, though different path, to AS Byatt's 'Posession': literary detective work spanning the years, revelatory, detailed...
Enthralling, wry & well observed. Memorable. Clever.
Read with great artistry & wit - huge variety in the narrator's delivery.
Previous bad reviews of this are baffling.....
This was my cup of tea - possibly not theirs is all I can suppose.
"Mind numbingly boring"
And so poorly read!! I so agree with the other reviewers and thoroughly wished I had given up after 9 chapters or so, but I kept hoping that something interesting would happen, which it never did! I had to check my library as I thought I must be missing another boring part as the end was so abrupt! With relief I found there was no more!
In principle, the idea of dipping into a family's history every few decades appealed to me. I liked the idea that the sections stood alone and that the intervening years are not directly described but are deduced. I had no problem with the narrator, unlike some other reviewers. I've now run-out of positive things to say. How was this nomited for the Book Prize? I understand that it's all about misinterpretatations, reputations about a dead author and his work that change over time and reinforce myths (and being Holinghurst its laced with the historical development of gay life) but there is very little reason to engage with the characters or to care about what happens.
It's one of those books that you think you should like because of all the reviews. You buy it, suffer through it and just feel embarrassed or guilty to abandon it.
Another reviewer on this site blamed the narrator. I don't think so it is just not a great book.
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