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
“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)
I loved both its characters and the way the writer explores how and what is remembered.
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.
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.
I adored Daphne, but would probably take Cecil out to dinner just to see what kind of mischief he would get himself into.
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.
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.
I'm an RN: Retired Nurse (-: Living the good life. I'm enjoying my hobbies: playing music and Photography, I do a lot of both in beautiful Balboa Park. I listen to Audible books during my 2 mile walk to the gym; 4 days a week, and during my boring workouts! I like movies, theater, cooking, my friends and my cat; not necessarily in that order, and life in general.
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.
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.
The author goes on and on without sharing any sense of his destination.
Yes, the book
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.
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...)
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