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The Stranger's Child | [Alan Hollinghurst]

The Stranger's Child

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2011 Alan Hollinghurst (P)2011 Random House

What the Critics Say

“Brilliantly written, intricate and wide-reaching . . . An almost century-long cavalcade of changing social, sexual and cultural attitudes, exhibited in sensuously imagined scenes and scrutinized with ironic wit . . . Marvelously acute in its attention to idioms and idiosyncrasies, tone and body language, psychological and emotional nuances, the book gives intensely credible life to its swarm of characters.” (Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times, London)

“Not only Alan Hollinghurst’s most ambitious novel to date, but also his funniest since The Spell . . . Hollinghurst is perhaps our most literary contemporary novelist, in the sense that his books are . . . playfully, but never merely flippantly, studded with allusions. . . . The principal theme of the workings of time and memory [is] brilliantly embodied in the book’s structure, with its bold narrative leaps forward…Beautifully written, ambitious in its scope and structure, confident in its execution, The Stranger’s Child is a masterclass in the art of the novel.”(Peter Parker, The Times Literary Supplement, UK)

“Highly entertaining and, as always with Hollinghurst, the dialogue is immaculate and the characterization first class. . . . Every Alan Hollinghurst novel is a cause for celebration, and this spacious, elegant satire is no exception.”(David Robson, Sunday Telegraph, UK)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (37 )
5 star
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3.3 (30 )
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Story
3.8 (31 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Here-and-faraway Sunny California 01-19-13
    Here-and-faraway Sunny California 01-19-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    79
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    99
    17
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    11
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "I Hated For It To End"
    What did you love best about The Stranger's Child?

    I loved both its characters and the way the writer explores how and what is remembered.


    What other book might you compare The Stranger's Child to and why?

    I could loosely compare it to A.S. Byatt's Possession or Tennysons' "In Memoriam" (where the story got its title from.) Like Possession, we see biographers trying to unravel the mystery of what a famous poet was really like and who he was romantically involved with. Unlike Possession, the story isn't centered on "who dun' it" (although there are some surprising twists at the end), but rather who is remembered, how they are remembered, and who is forgotten. It's very poignant to see who and what is lost.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The ending left me with chills. I also listened to the first part of the story over and over again because it is so well crafted.


    If you could take any character from The Stranger's Child out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    I adored Daphne, but would probably take Cecil out to dinner just to see what kind of mischief he would get himself into.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a beautifully written book. The author really knows his craft. The pace is set on slow burn. The book isn't about exposing one shocking revelation after another, but rather about how things are revealed and chosen to be remembered. You know that feeling when you finish a story and wish there was more? When you can't start anything else because what you just read was so good? When the story's over, but it still hangs like a veil over your daily life? That's where I am right now, after completing The Stranger's Child. It's definitely something I will listen to again.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    augustine Mc Farland, WI, United States 09-24-12
    augustine Mc Farland, WI, United States 09-24-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    28
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    13
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
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    Story
    "A Stranger's Story"

    Having read Hollinghurst' "The Line of Beauty", I was prepared for the homosexual themes of this book. If that bothers you, then I would stay away from this audible listen.

    I was not however prepared for the sketchiness of the novel. It is done by a master writer, but do not expect a story that reveals itself in any sort of traditional way. What emerges is the broken bits of a life and of the lives that are touched by the poet character.

    Much like life itself, expect a mash up of events, desultory memories and skeletons best left in closets. A masterful work and reading.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Cox San Diego, CA USA 11-28-11
    Michael Cox San Diego, CA USA 11-28-11

    Audiophile

    HELPFUL VOTES
    83
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    39
    24
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    81
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Left me feeling sad and disappointed"

    I’m not a sophisticated reader, not educated in the liberal arts, and not "well read", so one should take this review with a grain of salt.

    The humor referred to in "what the critics say" was completely missed by me; which; I suppose, attests to my limitations as a reader. But I do agree that it was beautifully written; and beautifully read, however it verged on the tedious. But never quite so much that I gave in to the urge to stop reading. In general it felt like very long roller coaster ride with long hauls and anticlimactic drops.

    There is no "plot" just the story about a very handsome young aristocrat with "raven hair", "big hands" and "a huge..." who's family, poetry and, mostly homosexual escapades are the subject of the many family biographers, most, or all, of whom have their own homosexual escapades; with the main character or one another.

    But the homosexual undercurrent of this; (Gothic novel?) is rather trite and cavalier. I mean, no one ever gets upset by being hit on, and everyone seems rather indifferent about the many "queer" characters in the book. None of whom seem a bit disturbed by how the many male characters go after one another. Very "romantic" but a bit difficult to believe, given the nature of "the crime that dares not speak it's name", and the period in which they was being committed.

    Aside from that this book was a bit of a slog with a plethora of characters, coming and going; in and out, Jumping from one generation to the next and then, abruptly, without warning, ending.

    It was all a bit of a tease for me, just when you got interested in a character the storyline shifted to another character entirely, often in another family or another generation.

    It left me feeling rather sad and disappointed.

    7 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Russell Queen Creek, AZ, United States 02-28-13
    Russell Queen Creek, AZ, United States 02-28-13 Listener Since 2008
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    51
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Couldn't Finish It"
    Any additional comments?

    I really enjoyed two other Allan Hollinghurst books, but I could not get into this story enough to finish it. To be fair to Mr. Hollinghurst, I don't think think it's his fault. This audiobook's performer was quite bad. He made it sound like a children's book. The performance was so distracting that I found myself focusing on it instead of the story. I gave up trying to finish it once I realized it had become a chore. I think I'll return it under Audible's new Great Listen Guarantee.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andre New York, NY, United States 04-08-12
    Andre New York, NY, United States 04-08-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    87
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    209
    29
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    5
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Sorry Story from a Gift Writer"
    What disappointed you about The Stranger's Child?

    The author goes on and on without sharing any sense of his destination.


    Has The Stranger's Child turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Yes, the book


    What does James Daniel Wilson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Well read.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    If you are a militant gay, convinced that every other male is secretly gay, you might enjoy the book. If, however, you see the world as a mix of gay and straight -- you'll be frustrated by the lack of straight characters...and by the inclusion of those from the British upper class that would certainly have been part of the story if a more balanced author had been at the keyboard.


    Any additional comments?

    Hollinghurst's earlier work - particularly The Swimming Pool Diaries - is much more compelling. This book felt like Downton Abbey without with, pathos, or characters you cared about. (Don't even get me going about the ending...)

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dr. PENSACOLA, FL, United States 12-04-13
    Dr. PENSACOLA, FL, United States 12-04-13 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Bookclubber"
    What would have made The Stranger's Child better?

    A meandering story that was very difficult to follow.


    Would you be willing to try another one of James Daniel Wilson’s performances?

    The fact that no one in my book club enjoyed this book had everything to do with the author and nothing to do with the performance of the narrator, So yes.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    A few people in my book club thought The author had a gift of painting visual images of characters and scenery.


    Any additional comments?

    Out of six people in our book club only one person finished this entire book. This has never happened before. The other five people, including me, found the books so on unengaging and difficult to follow that we gave up and quit reading. One of the worst books I've ever read.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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