The Stranger's Child

( 12 )

Overview

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 ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (69) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $2.64   
  • Used (63) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$2.64
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(2770)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
2011-10-11 Hardcover First Edition New 0307272761 Ships Within 24 Hours. Tracking Number available for all USA orders. Excellent Customer Service. Upto 15 Days 100% Money Back ... Gurantee. Try Our Fast! ! ! ! Shipping With Tracking Number. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Bensalem, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$2.85
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(141)

Condition: New
New - excellent clean condition, clean pages, Hard-Bound with dust-cover ***

Ships from: long island city, NY

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$4.15
Seller since 2015

Feedback rating:

(121)

Condition: New
Deckle Edge New New condition. Free track! Fast shipping! Satisfication guaranteed!

Ships from: Media, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$5.25
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(19)

Condition: New

Ships from: Potomac, MD

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$7.35
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(23)

Condition: New
New York, NY 2011 Hard cover First edition. 1st American ed. New in fine dust jacket. SHIP DAILY from NJ; GIFT-ABLE as NEAR NEW, UNREAD FIRST, fresh, NEAR NEW (hidden subtle ... sign of shelf life) w/DJ FINE (shelving bump back top spine) AS SHOWN THIS COVER Sewn binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 448 p. Audience: General/trade. 9838 9838--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 t Read more Show Less

Ships from: Hewitt, NJ

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$75.00
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:

(38)

Condition: New
New York, Ny, U.S.A. 2011 Hardcover 1st Edition New in New jacket Book. Signed by Author(s) An Outstanding Copy-Signed By The Author On The Title Page. Signature Only. A First ... Edition, First Printing. Book Is In Fine Condition. Boards Are Clean, Not Bumped. Fore Edges Are Clean. Interior Is Clean And Legible. Not Remaindered. Dust Jacket Is In Fine Condition. Not Chipped Or Crinkled. Not Price Clipped. Dust Jacket Is Covered By Mylar Brodart. Thanks And Enjoy. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Walnut, CA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
The Stranger's Child

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99
BN.com price

Overview

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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hollinghurst, author of the Man Booker Prize–winning The Line of Beauty, published seven years ago, stakes his claim for Most Puckishly Bemused English Novelist with this rambunctious stepchild to the mannered satires of Henry Green, E.M. Forster, and especially Evelyn Waugh. Fancy young George Sawle returns from Cambridge in 1913 to his family estate of Two Acres in the company of the dashing poet Cecil Valance, secretly his lover. Cecil enjoys success and popularity wherever he goes, and George’s precocious sister, Daphne, falls under his spell. To her he gives a poem about Two Acres, a work whose reputation will outlive Cecil, for he is fated to perish in WWI. Hollinghurst then jumps ahead to Daphne’s marriage to Cecil’s brother Dudley and commences the series of generation-spanning indiscretions and revisionist biographies that complicate Cecil’s legacy: he is variously a rebel, a tedious war poet, and, possibly, the father of Daphne’s daughter. Time plays havoc with fashions, relationships, and sexual orientation; the joke is on the legions of memoirists, professors, and literary treasure hunters whose entanglements with eyewitnesses produce something too fickle and impermanent to be called legend. Hollinghurst’s novel, meanwhile, could hardly be called overserious, but nearly 100 years of bedroom comedy is a lot to keep up with, and the author struggles at times to maintain endless amusement over the course of the five installments that make up this book. But convolution is part of the point. A sweet tweaking of English literature’s foppish little cheeks by a distinctly 21st-century hand. Longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. (Oct.)
Library Journal
On the eve of World War I, Cecil Valance, a wildly attractive and promising young poet, pays a visit to the home of his Cambridge boyfriend, the son of one of England's fine old families. He memorializes the visit with a poem that becomes famous after his wartime death. The poem, created as an autograph book keepsake for his lover's younger sister, Daphne, becomes the subject of speculation and debate for biographers and the generations that follow, as it contains hints about what might have happened during the visit and with whom. As the novel gallops ahead decade by decade, following the family fortunes of Daphne and her progeny, the events of that less tolerant era are viewed through an ever-cloudier lens. VERDICT With the prewar ambience of Atonement, the manor-house mystique of Gosford Park, and the palpable sexual tension of Hollinghurst's own The Line of Beauty, this generously paced, thoroughly satisfying novel will gladden the hearts of Anglophile readers. [See Prepub Alert, 4/4/11.]—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
Kirkus Reviews
Lives tangle and untangle in a literate, literary mystery at the heart of World War I by Man Booker Prize winner Hollinghurst (The Line of Beauty, 2004, etc.). Cecil Valance is a poet of terrific talent who, according to a guest in a comfortably English countryside house, is "not so good as Swinburne or Lord Tennyson." In his defense, he is still young. In the defense of everyone he meets, he is irresistible, a Lord Byron with sensitive appetites and a definite awareness of the effect he has on those he meets. George Sawle, scion of the modest manor, is awestruck. So is his sister, Daphne, who melts whenever Cess is around, even taking a puff on a cigar. But Cecil is the real deal as a poet of the Sassoon/Graves/Brooke school, as we learn on reading a heavily edited scrap of paper retrieved from a wastebasket: "Love as vital as the spring / And secret as -- XXX (something!)." War is looming, and Cecil, who professes to like hunting out in the fields, seems pleased at the prospect of trying his skills out on the Kaiser's boys. Alas, things don't work out as planned. Generations pass, and Cecil Valance's poems are firmly in the canon, especially a little one left as a commemoration to the Sawle family, with a carefully structured reference to kisses that might pass between the lips of lovers of any old gender. Now a biographer, working with the clues, is making the claim that Valance belongs in the canon not just of modernist British poetry, but of gay literature as well--a claim that, though seemingly well defended, stirs up controversy. Does it matter? Not to Cecil, poor fellow, "laid out in dress uniform, with rich attention to detail." And perhaps not to those left behind, now gone themselves or very nearly so. But yes, it matters, and such is the stuff of biography. How do we know the truth about anyone's life? Hollinghurst's carefully written, philosophically charged novel invites us to consider that question.
Michael Dirda
Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child could hardly be better…Most novelists tend to be slightly show­offy, in one way or another; it's how they make clear that what they're doing is art. But Alan Hollinghurst doesn't need to be a prose Johnny Depp. Instead, he writes with the relaxed elegance and unobtrusive charm of a Cary Grant. Part social history, part social comedy and wholly absorbing, The Stranger's Child does everything a novel should do and makes it look easy.
—The Washington Post
Thomas Mallon
Hollinghurst's fine new book, The Stranger's Child—the closest thing he has written to an old-fashioned chronicle novel—contains a whole hidden literary curriculum, out of which he has fashioned something fresh and vital.
—The New York Times Book Review
Emma Brockes
Among the sometimes bloodless English male novelists of [Hollinghurst's] generation, he is the one whose cleverness is least in conflict with his ability to make the reader feel as well as see the story…As always, Mr. Hollinghurst maintains an almost perfect balance between momentum and still life. He is also shrewdly funny.
—The New York Times
From the Publisher

“Remarkable. . . . Daring. . . . Fresh and vital.”
—Thomas Mallon, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Hollinghurst is a master storyteller. . . . For the daring of its setting out, and for the consistent flash and fire of the writing, The Stranger’s Child is to be cherished.”
—John Banville, The New Republic
 
“At once classically literary and delightfully, subversively modern. . . . It’s a thrilling, enchanting work of art.”
San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Brilliant. . . . Hollinghurst [has] a truly Jamesian fineness of perception. . . . [He is] one of the best novelists at work today.”
The Wall Street Journal

“A sly and ravishing masterpiece.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
 
“Magnificent. . . . Hollinghurst explores how a living, breathing existence can become a biographical subject riddled with omissions and distortions. . . . His immersion in each period is fluid and free of false notes, collectively fusing into a single symphonic epic. . . . A beautifully written, brilliantly observed and masterfully orchestrated novel.”
The Seattle Times
 
“Hollinghurst writes with the relaxed elegance and unobtrusive charm of a Cary Grant. Part social history, part social comedy and wholly absorbing, The Stranger’s Child does everything a novel should do and makes it look easy.”
The Washington Post
 
“Vibrant. . . . Sparkling. . . . Witty and ultimately very moving. . . . There are echoes of E. M. Forster, Evelyn Waugh, Elizabeth Bowen and others, but The Stranger’s Child is a Great English Novel in its own right, and a tantalizing read.”
Newsday
 
“Masterful. . . . Psychologically penetrating. . . . Hollinghurst is a superior novelist of manners, and the brilliance of The Stranger’s Child is in how it reveals the ways bad blood and secrets muck with history.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“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.”
The Times Literary Supplement
 
“Hollinghurst writes like Henry James, but without the obfuscation; his gorgeous sentences home in on the delicate nuances of human relationships but don’t sacrifice the larger social canvas along the way.”
Chicago Tribune
 
“Erudite, stylish, very amusing. . . . A novelist with a historian’s engrossment in the past and a critic’s sensitivity to taste and judgment, Hollinghurst is an aficionado of the English literary heritage [and] in The Stranger’s Child, that bookish fascination envelops every aspect of the novel.”
Bookforum
 
“Hollinghurst imaginatively insists that our literary tradition would be unrecognizably depleted without the submerged current of homosexuality. . . . The Stranger’s Child itself is the culmination of not only Hollinghurst’s ambition but that secret literary tradition to which it is addressed.”  
—Geoff Dyer, New York Magazine
 
“Charming. . . . Perfect. . . . Hollinghurst writes so carefully and subversively, often with one eyebrow raised in sardonic amusement as he satirizes the excesses of his mostly high-born protagonists.”
Financial Times

The Barnes & Noble Review

In the United States, World War I is something of a cipher, overshadowed by the conflagration that came after it. But in Britain, more than ninety years after the Armistice, it's still the war to end all wars. The biggest hit of 2010 on British television was Downton Abbey, an upstairs-downstairs drama whose subsequent season visits the trenches of the Somme. The National Theatre's play War Horse, set on the battlefields of France and Germany, has been a long-running hit in London. And the 2011 Mercury Prize, Britain's most prestigious music gong, went to PJ Harvey for Let England Shake, a brutal, uncompromising war album that visits the hell of Gallipoli, "an unearthly place" where "soldiers fall like lumps of meat."

And now comes The Stranger's Child, the first novel in seven years from Alan Hollinghurst, a century-spanning exploration of World War I's effect on British life and literature. "People can't get enough of the War," one character says late in the book, and even though we are in Thatcher's London there's no mistaking which capital-W war she means.

In particular The Stranger's Child looks at the tradition of war poetry, the verse of such soldier-writers as Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and Rupert Brooke, whom Americans know only glancingly but British schoolchildren still read, if no longer memorize, as early as primary school. The novel opens in 1913, when Cecil Valance—that's "SEH-sill" with a short E, though some of the novel's archer aristocrats say it as "sizzle"—spends the weekend at the house of George Sawle, his boyfriend up at Cambridge. Cecil is already making a name for himself as a poet; George's brother wants to know if he's met "young Rupert Brooke," whom his mother considers "an Adonis." After dinner he gives a reading: a bit of Tennyson and a bit of his own work, which seems to consist largely of descriptions of his own house, a Victorian pile on a 3,000-acre estate in Berkshire. One immodest line describes riding there "clear through a mile of glimmering park."

But before he leaves he inscribes George's sister's autograph book with a long poem about another house: the Sawles' own, much smaller home in Stanmore, then still rural and now part of the London commuter belt known as Metroland. The poem is called "Two Acres," and after Cecil is killed at Maricourt in 1916, it becomes a national touchstone. Over the next four sections of the novel, which are set in 1926, 1967, 1979–80 and 2008, we meet a dozen or more characters whose lives have been reshaped by Cecil's death and subsequent fame: George, who is not unhappily married (to a woman) but still remembers Cecil and "their mad sodomitical past"; his sister Daphne, who has married Cecil's brother Dudley and become Lady Valance in the process; Dudley himself, who despite being "a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and President of British Friends of Sherry" has always felt overshadowed; and a clutch of editors and biographers. But Cecil does not belong to them alone. Winston Churchill cites Valance in a war address. Evelyn Waugh mentions him in his letters. The fictional Valance is even included in Other Men's Flowers, the very real, millions-selling 1944 poetry collection found on nearly every British bookshelf.

Hollinghurst has a lot of fun reconstituting Cecil's poetry, though unlike A. S. Byatt, whose Possession featured entire pages of (fictional) verse, he only gives us a stanza or even a single line at a time. And he suggests that Valance is really not much of a poet at all. Into his customarily gorgeous phrases, the author inserts a clanger of Valance's, such as this sub Ogden Nash couplet: "I wonder if there's any man more / Learned than the man of Stanmore." Few others can write something that awful that well.

The Stranger's Child revisits some of Hollinghurst's enduring concerns: architecture and the social meaning of houses and buildings; the pastoral tradition and the relationship between city and country; and, most obviously, gay life and the construction of gay identity. (Not without cause: Wikipedia, which tolerates little in the way of sexual ambiguity, places Sassoon, Owen, and Brooke under "LGBT People from England.") In 1913, the very vocabulary of gay love is limited, with one minor character noting, not disapprovingly, that George is "very attached to [Cecil], in the Cambridge way." Cecil can only write about his love for George through indirection; "Two Acres" is disguised as an ode to Daphne, while George remembers "parts of it unpublished, unpublishable...secret paragraphs, priapic figures in the trees and bushes."

By the 1960s, Cecil's biographer Paul is in the closet, but he knows he isn't alone. Change is afoot. At a party he speaks hesitantly about "the Bill" that none of the guests can rise to call the Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalized gay sex in England in 1967. (Though the age of consent for gays remained twenty-one, five years higher than that for heterosexuals; it wasn't equalized until the Blair government amended the Act in 2000.) The vocabulary of gay desire is evolving, but indirection is still the watchword: perusing the personals in film pictorial mags, Paul alights on "Undisciplined bachelor (32) would like to meet strong-minded person with modern outlook." Nothing so indirect is required by the novel's last section. One character is described as "married," and the clarification that he's married to a man is not even necessary, while the rare-books dealer chasing Cecil's papers is arranging casual sex via text message with a trick whose name he can't remember.

Yet The Stranger's Child is ultimately less about gay history—and still less about gay desire; compared to The Swimming-Pool Library, the author's hothouse of a first novel, this new book is decidedly chaste—than about mythmaking, on both literary and national planes. In the 1920s section Dudley describes Cecil's obituary in the Times as "largely unrecognizable to anyone who'd really known my brother," and the misprisions go on for decades. Halfway through the novel the reader, who ingeniously has been let in on the truth about Cecil right at the start, may bridle as Hollinghurst's characters reinvent his life and poetry for their own purposes, destroying manuscripts or eliding letters with square brackets. But by the end of The Stranger's Child, such concerns seem overwrought. In a twenty-first century of endless war and instant celebrity, two horrors to which Britain has made a special contribution in recent years, Hollinghurst reminds us that the mess of real life can never be boiled down for public consumption and may not have any public meaning at all. Life is to live, "and the rest," as one character says, "is biography."

Jason Farago is a writer and critic whose work has appeared in the Guardian, the London Review of Books, n+1, Dissent, Frieze, and other publications. Trained as an art historian, he has contributed to several exhibition catalogs on art since 1960. He recently returned to his hometown of New York following a long sojourn in London.

Reviewer: Jason Farago

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307272768
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/11/2011
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 9.58 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 1.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Hollinghurst is the author of the novels The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star, The Spell and The Line of Beauty, which won the Man Booker Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award, the E. M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. He lives in London.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

I

She’d been lying in the hammock reading poetry for over an hour. It wasn’t easy: she was thinking all the while about George coming back with Cecil, and she kept sliding down, in small half-willing surrenders, till she was in a heap, with the book held tiringly above her face. Now the light was going, and the words began to hide among themselves on the page. She wanted to get a look at Cecil, to drink him in for a minute before he saw her, and was introduced, and asked her what she was reading. But he must have missed his train, or at least his connection: she saw him pacing the long platform at Harrow and Wealdstone, and rather regretting he’d come. Five minutes later, as the sunset sky turned pink above the rockery, it began to seem possible that something worse had happened. With sudden grave excitement she pictured the arrival of a telegram, and the news being passed round; imagined weeping pretty wildly; then saw herself describing the occasion to someone, many years later, though still without quite deciding what the news had been.

In the sitting-room the lamps were being lit, and through the open window she could hear her mother talking to Mrs. Kalbeck, who had come to tea, and who tended to stay, having no one to get back for. The glow across the path made the garden suddenly lonelier. Daphne slipped out of the hammock, put on her shoes, and forgot about her books. She started towards the house, but something in the time of day held her, with its hint of a mystery she had so far overlooked: it drew her down the lawn, past the rockery, where the pond that reflected the trees in silhouette had grown as deep as the white sky. It was the long still moment when the hedges and borders turned dusky and vague, but anything she looked at closely, a rose, a begonia, a glossy laurel leaf, seemed to give itself back to the day with a secret throb of colour.

She heard a faint familiar sound, the knock of the broken gate against the post at the bottom of the garden; and then an unfamiliar voice, with an edge to it, and then George’s laugh. He must have brought Cecil the other way, through the Priory and the woods. Daphne ran up the narrow half-hidden steps in the rockery and from the top she could just make them out in the spinney below. She couldn’t really hear what they were saying, but she was disconcerted by Cecil’s voice; it seemed so quickly and decisively to take control of their garden and their house and the whole of the coming weekend. It was an excitable voice that seemed to say it didn’t care who heard it, but in its tone there was also something mocking and superior. She looked back at the house, the dark mass of the roof and the chimney-stacks against the sky, the lamp-lit windows under low eaves, and thought about Monday, and the life they would pick up again very readily after Cecil had gone.

Under the trees the dusk was deeper, and their little wood seemed interestingly larger. The boys were dawdling, for all Cecil’s note of impatience. Their pale clothes, the rim of George’s boater, caught the failing light as they moved slowly between the birch-trunks, but their faces were hard to make out. George had stopped and was poking at something with his foot, Cecil, taller, standing close beside him, as if to share his view of it. She went cautiously towards them, and it took her a moment to realize that they were quite unaware of her; she stood still, smiling awkwardly, let out an anxious gasp, and then, mystified and excited, began to explore her position. She knew that Cecil was a guest and too grown-up to play a trick on, though George was surely in her power. But having the power, she couldn’t think what to do with it. Now Cecil had his hand on George’s shoulder, as if consoling him, though he was laughing too, more quietly than before; the curves of their two hats nudged and overlapped. She thought there was something nice in Cecil’s laugh, after all, a little whinny of good fun, even if, as so often, she was not included in the joke. Then Cecil raised his head and saw her and said, “Oh, hello!” as if they’d already met several times and enjoyed it.

George was confused for a second, peered at her as he quickly buttoned his jacket, and said, “Cecil missed his train,” rather sharply. “Well, clearly,” said Daphne, who chose a certain dryness of tone against the constant queasy likelihood of being teased.

“And then of course I had to see Middlesex,” said Cecil, coming forward and shaking her hand. “We seem to have tramped over much of the county.”

“He brought you the country way,” said Daphne. “There’s the country way, and the suburban way, which doesn’t create such a fine impression. You just go straight up Stanmore Hill.”

George wheezed with embarrassment, and also a kind of relief. “There, Cess, you’ve met my sister.”

Cecil’s hand, hot and hard, was still gripping hers, in a frank, convivial way. It was a large hand, and somehow unfeeling; a hand more used to gripping oars and ropes than the slender fingers of sixteen-yearold girls. She took in his smell, of sweat and grass, the sourness of his breath. When she started to pull her fingers out, he squeezed again, for a second or two, before releasing her. She didn’t like the sensation, but in the minute that followed she found that her hand held the memory of his hand, and half-wanted to reach out through the shadows and touch it again.

“I was reading poetry,” she said, “but I’m afraid it grew too dark to see.”

“Ah!” said Cecil, with his quick high laugh, that was almost a snigger; but she sensed he was looking at her kindly. In the late dusk they had to peer closely to be sure of each other’s expressions; it made them seem particularly interested in each other. “Which poet?”

She had Tennyson’s poems, and also the Granta, with three of Cecil’s own poems in it, “Corley,” “Dawn at Corley” and “Corley: Dusk.” She said, “Oh, Alfred, Lord Tennyson.”

Cecil nodded slowly and seemed amused by searching for the kind and lively thing to say. “Do you find he still holds up?” he said.

“Oh yes,” said Daphne firmly, and then wondered if she’d understood the question. She glanced between the lines of trees, but with a sense of other shadowy perspectives, the kind of Cambridge talk that George often treated them to, where things were insisted on that couldn’t possibly be meant. It was a refinement of teasing, where you were never told why your answer was wrong. “We all love Tennyson here,” she said, “at ‘Two Acres.’ ”

Now Cecil’s eyes seemed very playful, under the broad peak of his cap. “Then I can see we shall get on,” he said. “Let’s all read out our favourite poems—if you like to read aloud.”

“Oh yes!” said Daphne, excited already, though she’d never heard Hubert read out anything except a letter in The Times that he agreed with. “Which is your favourite?” she said, with a moment’s worry that she wouldn’t have heard of it.

Cecil smiled at them both, savouring his power of choice, and said, “Well, you’ll find out when I read it to you.”

“I hope it’s not ‘The Lady of Shalott,’ ” said Daphne.

“Oh, I like ‘The Lady of Shalott.’ ”

“I mean, that’s my favourite,” said Daphne.

George said, “Well, come up and meet Mother,” spreading his arms to shepherd them.

“And Mrs. Kalbeck’s here too,” said Daphne, “by the way.”

“Then we’ll try and get rid of her,” said George.

“Well, you can try . . . ,” said Daphne.

“I’m already feeling sorry for Mrs. Kalbeck,” said Cecil, “whoever she may be.”

“She’s a big black beetle,” said George, “who took Mother to Germany last year, and hasn’t let go of her since.”

“She’s a German widow,” said Daphne, with a note of sad realism and a pitying shake of the head. She found Cecil had spread his arms too and, hardly thinking, she did the same; for a moment they seemed united in a lightly rebellious pact.

2

While the maid was removing the tea-things, Freda Sawle stood up and wandered between the small tables and numerous little armchairs to the open window. A few high streaks of cloud glowed pink above the rockery, and the garden itself was stilled in the first grey of the twilight. It was a time of day that played uncomfortably on her feelings. “I suppose my child is straining her eyes out there somewhere,” she said, turning back to the warmer light of the room.

“If she has her poetry books,” said Clara Kalbeck.

“She’s been studying some of Cecil Valance’s poems. She says they are very fine, but not so good as Swinburne or Lord Tennyson.”

“Swinburne . . . ,” said Mrs. Kalbeck, with a wary chuckle.

“All the poems of Cecil’s that I’ve seen have been about his own house. Though George says he has others, of more general interest.”

“I feel I know a good deal about Cecil Valance’s house,” said Clara, with the slight asperity that gave even her nicest remarks an air of sarcasm.

Freda paced the short distance to the musical end of the room, the embrasure with the piano and the dark cabinet of the gramophone. George himself had turned rather critical of “Two Acres” since his visit to Corley Court. He said it had a way of “resolving itself into nooks.” This nook had its own little window, and was spanned by a broad oak beam.

“They’re very late,” said Freda, “though George says Cecil is hopeless about time.”

Clara looked tolerantly at the clock on the mantelpiece. “I think perhaps they are rambling around.”

“Oh, who knows what George is doing with him!” said Freda, and frowned at her own sharp tone.

“He may have lost his connection at Harrow and Wealdstone,” said Clara.

“Quite so,” said Freda; and for a moment the two names, with the pinched vowels, the throaty r, the blurred W that was almost an F, struck her as a tiny emblem of her friend’s claim on England, and Stanmore, and her. She stopped to make adjustments to the framed photographs that stood in an expectant half-circle on a small round table. Dear Frank, in a studio setting, with his hand on another small round table. Hubert in a rowing-boat and George on a pony. She pushed the two of them apart, to give Daphne more prominence. Often she was glad of Clara’s company, and her unselfconscious willingness to sit, for long hours at a time. She was no less good a friend for being a pitiful one. Freda had three children, the telephone, and an upstairs bathroom; Clara had none of these amenities, and it was hard to begrudge her when she laboured up the hill from damp little “Lorelei” in search of talk. Tonight, though, with dinner raising tensions in the kitchen, her staying-put showed a certain insensitivity.

“One can see George is so happy to be having his friend,” said Clara.

“I know,” said Freda, sitting down again with a sudden return of patience. “And of course I’m happy too. Before, he never seemed to have anybody.”

“Perhaps losing a father made him shy,” said Clara. “He wanted only to be with you.”

“Mm, you may be right,” said Freda, piqued by Clara’s wisdom, and touched at the same time by the thought of George’s devotion. “But he’s certainly changing now. I can see it in his walk. And he whistles a great deal, which usually shows that a man’s looking forward to something . . .Of course he loves Cambridge. He loves the life of ideas.” She saw the paths across and around the courts of the colleges as ideas, with the young men following them, through archways, and up staircases. Beyond were the gardens and river-banks, the hazy dazzle of social freedom, where George and his friends stretched out on the grass, or slipped by in punts. She said cautiously, “You know he has been elected to the Conversazione Society.”

“Indeed . . . ,” said Clara, with a vague shake of the head.

“We’re not allowed to know about it. But it’s philosophy, I think. Cecil Valance got him into it. They discuss ideas. I think George said they discuss ‘Does this hearth-rug exist?’ That kind of thing.”

“The big questions,” said Clara.

Freda laughed guiltily and said, “I understand it’s a great honour to be a member.”

“And Cecil is older than George,” said Clara.

“I believe two or three years older, and already quite an expert on some aspect of the Indian Mutiny. Apparently he hopes to be a Fellow of the college.”

“He is offering to help George.”

“Well, I think they’re great friends!”

Clara let a moment pass. “Whatever the reason,” she said, “George is blooming.”

Freda smiled firmly, as she took up her friend’s idea. “I know,” she said. “He’s coming into bloom, at last!” The image was both beautiful and vaguely unsettling. Then Daphne was sticking her head through the window and shouting,

“They’re here!”—sounding furious with them for not knowing.

“Ah, good,” said her mother, standing up again.

“Not a moment too soon,” said Clara Kalbeck, with a dry laugh, as if her own patience had been tried by the wait.

Daphne glanced quickly over her shoulder, before saying, “He’s extremely charming, you know, but he has a rather carrying voice.”

“And so have you, my dear,” said Freda. “Now do go and bring him in.”

“I shall depart,” said Clara, quietly and gravely.

“Oh, nonsense,” said Freda, surrendering as she had suspected she would, and getting up and going into the hall. As it happened Hubert had just got home from work, and was standing at the front door in his bowler hat, almost throwing two brown suitcases into the house. He said,

“I brought these up with me in the van.”

“Oh, they must be Cecil’s,” said Freda. “Yes, ‘C. T. V.,’ look. Do be careful . . .” Her elder son was a well-built boy, with a surprisingly ruddy moustache, but she saw in a moment, in the light of her latest conversation, that he hadn’t yet bloomed, and would surely be completely bald before he had had the chance. She said, “And a most intriguing packet has come for you. Good evening, Hubert.”

“Good evening, Mother,” said Hubert, leaning over the cases to kiss her on the cheek. It was the little dry comedy of their relations, which somehow turned on the fact that Hubert wasn’t lightly amused, perhaps didn’t even know there was anything comic about them. “Is this it?” he said, picking up a small parcel wrapped in shiny red paper. “It looks more like a lady’s thing.”

“Well, so I had hoped,” said his mother, “it’s from Mappin’s—,” as behind her, where the garden door had stood open all day, the others were arriving: waiting a minute outside, in the soft light that spread across the path, George and Cecil arm in arm, gleaming against the dusk, and Daphne just behind, wide-eyed, with a part in the drama, the person who had found them. Freda had a momentary sense of Cecil leading George, rather than George presenting his friend; and Cecil himself, crossing the threshold in his pale linen clothes, with only his hat in his hand, seemed strangely unencumbered. He might have been coming in from his own garden.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. Much of The Stranger’s Child concerns attempts to get at the truth of Cecil Valance. What does the novel as a whole say about our ability to truly know another person? In what ways does it illustrate the limits of our knowing? Do we as readers of the novel know Cecil more accurately than George, Daphne, Dudley—even Sebastian Stokes? What about Paul Bryant?

2. What role does keeping secrets play in the The Stranger’s Child? Why do so many characters feel compelled to lead secret lives?

3. Several characters are said to have had “a bad war,” suffering from what would now be described as post traumatic stress disorder. How has the war affected Dudley Valence and Leslie Keeping in particular? In what ways does World War I cast a shadow over the entire novel?

4. Before her interview with Sebby Stokes for the memoir he’s writing about Cecil, Daphne thinks: “What she felt then; and what she felt now; and what she felt now about what she felt then; it wasn’t remotely easy to say” [p. 141]. Later in the novel, frustrated with Paul’s interview for his biography of the poet, Daphne muses: “He was asking for memories, too young himself to know that memories were only memories of memories” [p.382]. In what ways does the novel suggest that memory, of both facts and feelings, is an extremely unreliable method of recovering the truth? 

5. What is suggested by the divergent attitudes expressed in the novel toward Victorianism, especially as it is embodied in Corley House? Why does Dudley detest the house so violently? What is the effect of Mrs. Riley’s modernist makeover?

6. How do English attitudes towards homosexuality change over the period the novel covers, from 1913 to 2008? Why is it important, in terms of Cecil Valance’s biography, that the true nature of his sexuality, and the true recipient of his famous poem “Two Acres,” be revealed?

7. What other important generational changes in English life does the novel trace?

8. The Stranger’s Child is, among many other things, a wonderfully comic novel. What are some of its funniest moments and most amusing observations?

9. Cecil Valance is a purely fictional character—though he resembles the World War I poet Rupert Brooke—but he inhabits a milieu in the novel that includes real people: literary scholars Jon Stallworthy and Paul Fussell appear at a party, John Betjeman attends a rally to save St. Pancras Station, and Cecil is said to have known Lytton Strachey and other members of the Bloomsbury group. What is the effect of this mixing of real and fictional characters?

10. Near the end of the novel, Jennifer Keeping tells Rob that Paul Bryant’s story of his father’s heroic death in World War II is a fiction, that in fact Paul was a bastard. For Rob, this revelation makes Paul “if anything more intriguing and sympathetic” [p. 422]. Do you agree with Rob—is Paul a sympathetic character? How does Paul’s own secret past shed light on his motivations and tactics as a biographer?

11. In what ways does A Stranger’s Child critique English manners and morals? In what ways might it be said to celebrate them—if at all?

12. The novel is filled with remarkable subtleties of perception. After Cecil leaves “Two Acres,” Daphne thinks: “Of course he had gone! There was a thinness in the air that told her, in the tone of the morning, the texture of the servants’ movements and fragments of talk” [p. 75]. Where else does this kind of finely attuned awareness appear in the novel? What do such descriptions add to the experience of reading of The Stranger’s Child?

13. The novel opens with George, Daphne, and Cecil reciting Tennyson’s poetry on the lawn of “Two Acres” and ends with Rob viewing a video clip of a digitally animated photograph (on the website Poets Alive! Houndvoice.com) that makes it appear as if Tennyson is reading his poetry [p. 424]. What is Hollinghurst suggesting by bookending his novel in this way?

14. What does the novel say about how literary reputations are created, preserved, revised?

15. Why do you think Hollinghurst ends the novel with Rob’s unsuccessful attempt to recover Cecil’s letters to Hewitt before they go up in smoke? Is this conclusion satisfying, or appropriately open-ended?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(4)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Sprawling Perfection

    The Stranger's Child follows two British families, the Vances and the Sawles, from before WWI to the present. Both families were in the British upper class, with the Vances a bit higher, having a title. The sons of the families, Cecil and George, become friends at college, and the book begins with Cecil Vance's visit to George Sawle's family home on a weekend. Daphne, George's teenage sister, is infatuated with Cecil, too innocent to understand that the young men are sexually involved with each other. Cecil, a budding poet, dashes off a poem in Daphne's autograph book before he leaves. This poem becomes his most famous, and the one by which he is forever known.

    The next section occurs after the war. Daphne is now Lady Vance, but is not married to Cecil. Cecil is killed in the war, and Daphne has married his brother Dudley. George is now married and teaching. The section follows their married years and their friends and acquaintances. They are part of an artistic circle with poets, authors and artists.

    Fast forward a generation. The Vance family home has now become a boy's school, and Peter Rowe is a schoolmaster there. He begins an affair with Paul Bryant, who works as a bank teller in Daphne's son-in-law's bank. The circle of connection moves forward with Peter being invited to play duets with Daphne's daughter, Corrine, at gatherings at their home.
    Another generation. Now Paul has become an author, specifically a biographer. He trades on his acquaintance with the Vance and Sawle families to ferret out their secrets and create a best-seller. George became the author, with his wife, of a famous historical textbook that became the milestone of every British child's education. Daphne spends her old age living with her son, who guards her jealously.

    Alan Hollinghurst has created a fascinating book that looks at an era in British history where there were only a limited number of people who 'counted' and they all knew each other in some way, or had some tangential relationship or acquaintance that brought them into the charmed circle. He also plays with the idea of memory, how we are remembered when we are no longer here, and whether memories are ever true or are instead tinged and shaped by what we want to have happened. Families rise and fall, fortunes and titles come and go. The sections are tied together interestingly, with minor characters tieing back in unexpected ways to the two main families. This book has been nominated for the Mann Booker Prize in 2011, and is a well-deserved nomination.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 26, 2012

    Mmmmm . . .

    The story and characters were interesting and they are what propelled me to finish this book, but it was not an easy thing to do. I can't put my finger on why, but The Stranger's Child was a very difficult book to read. I could only do it in short bursts as a very little goes a long way with this one. I can't decide if I enjoyed it or not. Mmmmmm . . .

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 17, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    This was a really enjoyable book

    I truly enjoyed this book, the tale was colorfully written, and the characters jumped out at you. I loved coming home after a long day at work, and relaxing after dinner with this book. Phenomenal Author! I also loved THE CHATEAU by C D Swanson. A fantastic tale of intrique, and flamboyant and loving characters that all blend well together. The MC was awesome, and the adventure and shocking twists and turns, made me truly understand the meaning of "page turner!" Love both books and recommend them to all who love good reading material.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not An Easy Read

    The effort the author went to in writing The Stranger's Child is enormous, or so it appears to me. He has created a story that transcends lives, and characters who are not stick figures commonly seen in fiction. Yet his efforts result in a book that is at times difficult to enjoy. The stuffy British upper class are not always interesting. But the look at the times, and how gays were portrayed (or not) is indeed fascinating.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2013

    thinker

    Very well written

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    Coincidence?

    I think I read this story before...The House at Riverton by Kate Morton.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2013

    Facebook

    I h hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhate this book becase its stupid anb thatZ y i hate it

    0 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)