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The Swimming Pool Library | [Alan Hollinghurst]

The Swimming Pool Library

This novel centres on the friendship of William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, who is searching for someone to write his biography.
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Publisher's Summary

This novel centres on the friendship of William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, who is searching for someone to write his biography.

©2006 Alan Hollinghurst; (P)BBC Audiobooks LTD

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (97 )
5 star
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Overall
3.7 (41 )
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Story
4.2 (41 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Aoife East Ivanhoe, Australia 12-29-11
    Aoife East Ivanhoe, Australia 12-29-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Beautifully Written and Read"

    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.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 05-15-11
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 05-15-11 Member Since 2006

    If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Strong stuff"

    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.

    Excellent reader.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 08-04-12
    John SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States 08-04-12 Member Since 2000
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    "Hollinghurst's first and among the best."
    If you could sum up The Swimming Pool Library in three words, what would they be?

    great period piece


    What did you like best about this story?

    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.


    What does Samuel West bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Gay England in the late 20th century.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Here-and-faraway Sunny California 07-06-13
    Here-and-faraway Sunny California 07-06-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Offers Insight"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    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.


    What did you like best about this story?

    How it let me see the world through a new set of eyes.


    What does Samuel West bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    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.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Yes, but I don't want to spoil things for you... There's a part that will stick with me for a long time.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua ASBURY, NJ, United States 11-15-12
    Joshua ASBURY, NJ, United States 11-15-12 Member Since 2011

    Choreographer, Director, Actor, Dancer, Educator. And lover of audio books! They are theatre for the mind!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Was there even a story!!!???"

    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!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T Cyr Missoula, MT United States 05-08-14
    T Cyr Missoula, MT United States 05-08-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Fun & Interesting, with lots of steamy bits!"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen west pymble, Australia 11-10-11
    Stephen west pymble, Australia 11-10-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Pointless and Plotless"

    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.

    3 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Mannford, OK, United States 10-31-12
    David Mannford, OK, United States 10-31-12 Member Since 2001
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    "Not a nice book"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    No Idea


    Has The Swimming Pool Library turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Yes definately


    How could the performance have been better?

    I guess the performance was ok but the book was terrible


    What character would you cut from The Swimming Pool Library?

    Don't really know


    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Todd Providence, RI, United States 12-27-11
    Todd Providence, RI, United States 12-27-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Smutty, self-absorbed and pointless"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    I think there may have been an idea related to identity hidden somewhere in this book, but if so it was safely concealed beneath episode after episode of meaningless sexual encounters described in graphic detail.

    I came away from this book feeling disappointed and repelled by both the characters and the author. If there was a point to this story, I really don't know what it was.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Alan Hollinghurst again?

    No


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Angered by the image of gay men presented in this book.


    Any additional comments?

    Don't waste your money on this one.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Sheung WanHong Kong 12-06-07
    Christopher Sheung WanHong Kong 12-06-07 Member Since 2007
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    "Interesting but..."

    I kind of enjoyed it, I spent most of the time facinated by the lifestyle of the era (1970's) and the research into the days of the time before. I kept expecting their posh bubble to burst but disappointingly it is not the point of the story, then again any point would have been good. Unless the point is that posh lives are pointless.

    3 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 11 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • MARTIN
    HASLEMERE, United Kingdom
    1/14/09
    Overall
    "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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • David
    REDDITCH, Worcs, United Kingdom
    3/27/10
    Overall
    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    8/29/08
    Overall
    "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.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • T. Bevington
    London, UK
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "compelling"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • MR
    Auchterarder, United Kingdom
    9/14/12
    Overall
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • linda
    Valleraugue, France
    1/2/12
    Overall
    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Melanie
    Swindon, United Kingdom
    9/11/11
    Overall
    "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.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-7 of 7 results

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