©2006 Alan Hollinghurst; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
This story is about gay life. That is the heart of it. If you are offended by that (and it includes explicit sex) then this is not for you. However, what you will be missing is superb writing and an amazing debut novel which showed what a genius Hollinghurst is. All his books are marvellous, with The Line of Beauty, which won the Booker, being a very worthy winner. There is an audiobook of that which sadly Audible doesn't have but would be fantastic if they got it.
If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.
Swimming Pool Library is beautifully written and will give you a vivid picture of the life depicted. As a straight man I endeavored to give all the gay sexuality the same distance I gave the sexuality of "straight" characters whose taste differs from mine--cf. Lolita or anything by Pynchon. But don't think you can just skim over it and get back to the plot. Gay sexuality is THE subject of this book.
It depends on the friend. This book is NOT for everyone. It graphically describes the life of a promiscuous gay man. So if the topic of homosexuality or detailed sex scenes disturb you, then steer clear. Also, black people are almost like fetish objects in this novel. Many of the upper-crust, white British men in the novel are VERY attracted to Africans. Although the wealthy men are genuinely sickened by hate crimes, they also don't quite see black people as "human" either. It's like people from Africa are viewed as some sort of enchanted, mythological creatures to be sought after and adored. I don't want to give the impression that the book centers on race relations, but some of the ways that black people are described made me feel uncomfortable. I think that Hollinghurst purposely did this to further explore the idea of what it's like to be viewed as an "other" in mainstream society.
I would recommend this book to a friend who loves beautiful writing and strong characterization. I would recommend it to a friend who enjoys thinking about things that they've never considered before. Before this novel, I never thought about how so much "homosexual history" was covered up, changed, or never recorded to begin with. Just like in Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child, the idea of what is forgotten and what is chosen to be remembered hangs heavily.
How it let me see the world through a new set of eyes.
He is a fantastic narrator. All of his characters sound unique and he does a fantastic job with different dialects and accents. Perfect pacing, smooth voice, lovely narration, perfect execution of wit... I would love to hear another story read by him.
Yes, but I don't want to spoil things for you... There's a part that will stick with me for a long time.
great period piece
Listening to it twenty years after reading it made me realize how much I had changed. It's a great description of upper class British life. Hollinghurst's lush writing is in full bloom.
Sam West's narration makes this an good example of listening surpassing reading. His Lord Nantwich is spot on. It's Hollinghurst's ear for British language that provides such great material. Sam brings the fellow to life.
Gay England in the late 20th century.
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The storyline goes on without much point, but the emotion, feeling and self absorption of the main character is very interesting.
The characters are so difficult to connect with, but their single-minded pursuit of life's fleeting pleasure is totally redeeming. The beauty of his descriptive prose is definitely worth the read.
Samuel West keeps this story interesting and going through great definition of character. Not sure where the plot was always going, or even if there was a plot, more like the meanderings of the main character's thoughts. Lots of great sex, vivid and colorful romp into gay life. Kind of a refreshing journey to be taken on to a time forgotten, how carefree the 80's actually were. Hollinghurst is an interesting writer who puts the most interesting spin on the most banal circumstances. Totally enjoyed all the way through. It's a great book to listen to while you garden.
Choreographer. Director. Actor. Educator. And lover of audio books! They are theatre for the mind!
While the book was beautifully written with vivid language and distinct characters where the hell was the plot???? There was no plot and by the end there was no resolution for any of the characters. However Samuel West did an amazing job as the narrator. He is the only reason i finished the book!
I did actually listen to the whole book because I waited in hope of some twist or purpose to the story .... sadly there was none. I purchased because it won the Man Booker prize, I have to say I have no idea why.
I think as others have said this is more of a gay porn novel and as I straight person I found it over the top (probably 1/3 of the book was gay sex), I only tolerated it in the hope the story had some interesting twist around Charles Nantwich... but sadly no .. and well it just ends with no reason, although I was very happy about this in many ways.
Samuel West is an artist, delight to listen to. I loved having been consistently and artfully placed in the London locations I know well and love. In that respect it reminded me of the Forsyte Saga.
The characters, the eras, especially the beautifully rendered dialogue
"Gay lit. of the highest order"
Alan Hollinghurst cleverly structures his story to provide a representation of homosexual lives over several generations. Older gay men reading this novel will recognise the signs of the changing times and, I hope, rejoice at the emergence of freedoms so abundantly enjoyed by the likes of the narrator.
I do not agree with the previous reviewer that the sex scenes are done in "the best possible taste". They are described realistically and honestly in the way that such scenes rarely are, be the fiction gay or straight. No adult should be shocked by the acts, but rather by the honesty.
Samuel West's reading is sympathetic and absorbing, though a little lacking in characterisation for a first-person narrative.
"Carefully crafted tale of a bygone era"
Alan Hollinghurst used words like a craftsman: each is chosen for just the right purpose. I had to use my dictionary while listening several times! Although the story is quite spicy and racy (not for those easily shocked by graphic descriptions of gay sex) it is so well written that you are drawn along effortlessly, even when the scene being described is so brutal and devoid of human connection that it repels as much as it excites. Sam West narrates brilliantly: how he manages the different voices with such consistency is amazing and a testament to the skill of true actors. There are - perhaps - few characters with whom one totally sympathises or identifies (James, the doctor was the nearest I could manage). Nevertheless, there is a kind of appalling honesty about Hollinghurst's writing: he presents a version of gay/male sexuality in all it tawdry directness. Recommended.
"Interesting story, often tender, always funny."
Interesting story, well written, often tender, always funny. Probably not recommended for non-gay listeners (but give it a go if you're at all curious). Colourful descriptions of sexual activity, all done in the best possible taste, of course. If you listen to it in public, make sure the volume of your player is low enough (or you will get some funny looks). Excitable listeners may wish to place a briefcase or jacket on their lap if listening to it on public transport.
"Wonderful voice acting"
Absolutely perfect voicing for Hollinghurst. Please do more! This book captures a beautiful part of the human condition flawlessly. I didn't want it to end.
Honest portrayal of the eclectic male underworld of the upper middle class meets man on the street. written in a very elegant prose narrated by the most exquisite and perfectly matched voice. A perfect Combination and to be applauded.
"Still superb after 20 years"
A compelling and sexy novel which raises complex issues around clad, sexuality and race. Samuel West's narration is perfect and nothing short of stunning.
I wasn't sure at first - another posh gay man talking about his sexploits. But soon I was grabbed by it no really by a need to know what happened next, nor did I particularly care for the main characters, but something within it compelled me to listen again. Anyone prudish about gay sex may be offended, but it's no more explicit than most straight sex incidents are depicted in mainstream literature. Despite myself I like this book a lot. I think there are hidden treasures within, which I still don't quite comprehend.
"Funny and Warming"
Really enjoyed listening to this book. The characters are interesting and believable, especially Will who I think most people will be able to liken to a friend of their own. Think I have a good incite into what the gay scene was a few decades ago in middle class London. Felt a little cheated with a sudden ending, really wanted more. Other than that a really great 12 hours listening to this great story.
"A consummate talent"
Wonderful book, perfectly narrated. I was so grateful for it's length, not wanting to let go. Can't help but feel that AH's (stunningly written) graphic and lengthy descriptions of sexual encounters have to be self indulgence; if so, he richly deserves this pleasure. (I am a female heterosexual, just for the record) I only wish that Samuel West had narrated H's other novels - for me the two are forever joined.
"The sex gets tedious"
I feel like I wasted a credit on this so was compelled to write a review. I'm sure it is a great novel: it seems to be well-written and is beautifully read. However, I found it hard to follow the plot or sustain interest because of the continual sex scenes, which are described in detail, and were very boring to listen to. A previous review pointed this out and I have to agree. Maybe it would be of more interest if I were a gay man but it definitely wasn't for me.
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