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The Line of Beauty
     

The Line of Beauty

3.2 13
by Alan Hollinghurst
 

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"One can't get enough of Hollinghurst's sentences...If you value style, wit, and social satire in your reading, don't miss this elegant and passionate novel."-Washington Post
Winner of 2004's Man Booker Prize for fiction and one of the most talked about books of the year, The Line of Beauty is a sweeping novel about class, sex, and money that

Overview

"One can't get enough of Hollinghurst's sentences...If you value style, wit, and social satire in your reading, don't miss this elegant and passionate novel."-Washington Post
Winner of 2004's Man Booker Prize for fiction and one of the most talked about books of the year, The Line of Beauty is a sweeping novel about class, sex, and money that brings Thatcher's London alive. Nick Guest has moved in with the Feddens, a family whose patriarch is a conservative member of parliament. An innocent in matters of politics and money, Nick becomes caught up in the Feddens' world of parties and excess, as well as in his own private pursuit of beauty. Framed by the two general elections that returned Margaret Thatcher to power, The Line of Beauty unfurls through four extraordinary years of change and tragedy.
A New York Times Bestseller (Extended) • A LA Times Bestseller List • A Book Sense National Bestseller • A Northern California Bestseller • A Sunday Times Bestseller List • A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
And chosen as one of the best books of 2004 by: Entertainment Weekly The Washington Post The San Francisco Chronicle The Seattle Times Newsday • Salon.com • The Boston Globe The New York Sun The Miami Herald The Dallas Morning News San Jose Mercury News Publishers Weekly
"A magnificent comedy of manners. Hollinghurst's alertness to the tiniest social and tonal shifts never slackens, and positively luxuriates in a number of unimprovably droll set pieces...[an] outstanding novel."-New York Times Book Review
"Hollinghurst has placed his gay protagonist within a larger social context, and the result is his most tender and powerful novel to date, a sprawling and haunting elegy to the 1980s. A"-Entertainment Weekly
"Mr. Hollinghurst's great gift as a novelist is for social satire as sharp and tra

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
"Hollinghurst has placed his gay protagonist within a larger social context, and the result is his most tender and powerful novel to date, a sprawling and haunting elegy to the 1980s. A"
Washington Post
"One can't get enough of Hollinghurst's sentences. If you value style, wit, and social satire in your reading, don't miss this elegant and passionate novel."
New York Times Book Review
"A magnificent comedy of manners. Hollinghurst's alertness to the tiniest social and tonal shifts never slackens, and positively luxuriates in a number of unimprovably droll set pieces.[an] outstanding novel."
New York Observer
"Mr. Hollinghurst's great gift as a novelist is for social satire as sharp and transparent as glass, catching his quarry from an angle just an inch to the left of the view they themselves would catch in the mantelpiece mirror. The Line of Beauty is unlikely to be surpassed."
Christian Science Monitor
"Line for line, Hollinghurst's novel about London during the 1980s is the most exquisitely written book I've read in years. Witty observations about politics, society, and family open like little revelations on every page."
Publishers Weekly
Among its other wonders, this almost perfectly written novel, recently longlisted for the Mann Booker, delineates what's arguably the most coruscating portrait of a plutocracy since Goya painted the Spanish Bourbons. To shade in the nuances of class, Hollingsworth uses plot the way it was meant to be used-not as a line of utility, but as a thematically connected sequence of events that creates its own mini-value system and symbols. The book is divided into three sections, dated 1983, 1986 and 1987. The protagonist, Nick Guest, is a James scholar in the making and a tripper in the fast gay culture of the time. The first section shows Nick moving into the Notting Hill mansion of Gerald Fedden, one of Thatcher's Tory MPs, at the request of the minister's son, Toby, Nick's all-too-straight Oxford crush. Nick becomes Toby's sister Catherine's confidante, securing his place in the house, and loses his virginity spectacularly to Leo, a black council worker. The next section jumps the reader ahead to a more sophisticated Nick. Leo has dropped out of the picture; cocaine, three-ways and another Oxford alum, the sinisterly alluring, wealthy Lebanese Wani Ouradi, have taken his place. Nick is dimly aware of running too many risks with Wani, and becomes accidentally aware that Gerald is running a few, too. Disaster comes in 1987, with a media scandal that engulfs Gerald and then entangles Nick. While Hollinghurst's story has the true feel of Jamesian drama, it is the authorial intelligence illuminating otherwise trivial pieces of story business so as to make them seem alive and mysteriously significant that gives the most pleasure. This is Nick coming home for the first and only time with the closeted Leo: "there were two front doors set side by side in the shallow recess of the porch. Leo applied himself to the right hand one, and it was one of those locks that require tender probings and tuggings, infinitesimal withdrawals, to get the key to turn." This novel has the air of a classic. Agent, Emma Parry. (Oct.) Forecast: Widely praised for his three previous novels, Hollinghurst (The Swimming-Pool Library) is primed for even greater acclaim and sales with this masterful volume, the latest in a wave of Jamesian novels. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Britisher Hollinghurst (The Spell, 1998, etc.) isn't shy: At 400-plus pages sprinkled with references to Henry James, his fourth outing aspires to the status of an epic about sex, politics, money, and high society. Though he's best known for his elegant descriptions of gay male life and pitch-perfect prose, Hollinghurst is most striking here for his successful, often damning, observations about the vast divides between the ruling class and everyone else. It's 1983, and narrator Nick Guest, age 20, is literally a guest in the household of Conservative MP Gerald Fedden, whose son, Toby, Nick befriended at Oxford. Given an attic room and loosely assigned the task of looking after the Feddens' unstable manic-depressive daughter Catherine, Nick is given entree into a world of drunken, drug-laced parties at ancestral manors, high-stakes financial transactions, and politicians all obsessed with catching a glimpse of "The Lady"-Thatcher herself (who finally does make a cameo-hilariously-toward the end). Nick pursues his studies in James (though they may seem overkill in a novel already so saturated in the Jamesian) and his search for love-with a young Jamaican office worker, then with a closeted and cokehead Lebanese millionaire-though, as becomes clear, both his scholarship and sexuality are painfully peripheral in the world he's chosen to inhabit. Oddly, Nick is less interesting as a character than as an observer: His youthful affairs do gain gravitas as the '80s progress under the specter of AIDS, but over the story's course he goes from a virginal 20-year-old to a wizened 24-year-old. More fascinating are Hollinghurst's incisive depictions of the brilliance and ease that insulate and animatethe Feddens-especially the witty and difficult Gerald and the spectacular mess that is Catherine.-and the crushing realization that Nick, unlike those around him, does not have the casual luxury to crash up his own life and survive. A beautifully realized portrait of a decade and a social class, but without a well-developed emotional core. Agent: Emma Parry/Fletcher & Parry
From the Publisher

“A magnificent comedy of manners. Hollinghurst's alertness to the tiniest social and tonal shifts never slackens...[an] outstanding novel.” —New York Times Book Review

“If you value style, wit and social satire in your reading, don't miss this elegant and passionate novel.” —Washington Post

“His most tender and powerful novel to date. A.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Each sentence in this book rings as perfect and true as a Schubert sonata.” —Hartford Courant

“The Line of Beauty is itself a thing of beauty-an elegant and seductive novel.” —Philadelphia City Paper

“It really is his finest novel to date.” —Geoff Dyer

“A rueful, snapshot-accurate portrait of this era.” —Seattle Times

“[A] masterpiece with a skillfully rendered social panorama, a Proustian alertness to social nuance and a stylistic precision that recalls [James].” —Newsday

“The most exquisitely written book I've read in years. Witty observations about politics, society, and family open like little revelations on every page.” —Christian Science Monitor

“Almost perfectly written novel...This novel has the air of a classic.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“In the tradition of Henry James, Hollinghurst has artfully crafted a piquant satire of privilege and sexuality in all its forms.” —Genre Magazine

“The best English novel of the year so far is Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty.” —Zadie Smith, Guardian (UK)

“Like reading gossip in beautifully made sentences with extraordinary insights into motive and nuance, allowing all the time for comedy.” —Colm Toibin, Guardian (UK)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582346106
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
10/17/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
283,315
Product dimensions:
5.73(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.17(d)

Meet the Author

Alan Hollinghurst is the author of three novels, The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star, and The Spell. He lives in London.

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The Line of Beauty 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I approached this book with great anticipation - after-all, it has received lots of accolades and the Booker Prize. However, I never got past the first 100 pages. I never liked the characters, despite the fact that they are developed in an interesting manner. The plot revolves around disfunctional relationships and sad, and grotesque experiences. In addition, not being someone who is familiar with Thatcher-era England, or the finer points of English customs, I was hoping to be edified. Howver,the author does not attempt to clarify meaning or intent of class metaphors which are important to plot and character development. This is not a book which encouraged me to read beyond the unexplained to see if I could piece the puzzle together later. The characters are not people whom one is supposed to like. I think this book might be appealing to people who have read a lot of(and enjoy)James, or to those who prefer a purely intellectual, voyeuristic experience of characters fumbling through painful experiences. Not worth my precious time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yuk! Couldn't finish reading it! Not interested in intimate details of someone's sexual encounters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i began this book with high hopes. It had gotten enough praise and awards that i believed it was going to be an interesting and captivating read,but i was sorely mistaken. I might just not understand the author enough to enjoy his writing as so many others have but i felt the plot was hidden behind paragraphs of pretty sounding sentences. At one point i began to ignore the never ending informative paragraphs in order to keep myself awake. Now don't misunderstand me, Alan Hollingworth has a wonderful affair with words and can make even the mundane sound new and exciting. but the writing over powered the plot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I made several attempts to read this book and finally finished it and was totally disappointed. I found the style to be pedestrian but self conscious and the subject matter pretentious and self indulgent. The most over rated book I have ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alan Hollinghurst has consistently written intelligent and sensual novels ('The Swimming Pool Library', 'The Folding Star' and 'The Spell') that have found a readership that crosses over from his initial audience of readers of Gay fiction to the audience of readers who simply appreciate fine literature. And with THE LINE OF BEAUTY his merits have been rewarded not only by the acclaimed Booker Award, but also by a rather phenomenal presale demand. Hollinghurst is simply one of the best of the current writers. THE LINE OF BEAUTY is more than a finely tuned story about class differences, the foibles of the wealthy and ruling class of England, the hypocrisy of the Thatcher era in the 1980s, the recognition of the media watch dogs gobbling rumors about the government and the concurrent homophobia /rise of AIDS/druggie culture as seen through the proscenium arch of London. This book is very much a character study of one Nicholas Guest, a young middle class lad, graduate of Oxford, who (much like Ripley!) yearns for the luxuries of the wealthy and gentried such as Gerald and Rachel Fedden who live in a mansion in Notting Hill with their troubled (read 'speaks her mind') daughter Catherine and son Toby, the object of gay Nicholas' infatuation since their shared years at Oxford. The novel follows Nick's absorption into the Fedden family, being accepted as an aesthete, his first same sex affair with a handsome black clerk whom he encounters through a personal ad in the gay rag, his dalliances with the famous (including Margaret Thatcher herself), with a millionaire closeted playboy Wani who introduces him to drugs and more, and with creating a magazine with Wani which is the pinnacle of glossy aesthetics cum hoity toity. The various characters in this 'rake's progress' remain threaded through this story until all of the misguided judgments and turns of fate crumble Nick's world of fantasy. Yet as if this strong and fascinating story weren't enough, it is Hollinghurst's intelligence and writing style that mesmerize. He has the ability to begin phases of his tale with peripheral information that causes the reader to wonder exactly where he is taking us: he creates a stage setting with scenery and props that must be in place before the first character speaks the lines that define so cogently where the author has arrived. His quality of prose is exquisite both in describing the beauty seen and imagined and the 'squalor' intermittently encountered. He fleshes out each of his characters with such skill that we feel inside their heads even before they speak their lines. If there is a flaw in this tome it is a minor one: unless the reader is a thorough-going anglophile or has lived in some part of the UK, the various aspects of class distinction and governmental abbreviations require a bit of stalling to decipher. But then what is reading all about, if not for pleasure and for edification? THE LINE OF BEAUTY is a brilliant novel by a gifted writer and deserves the attention of everyone who loves great books. Grady Harp, November 2004
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Alan Hollinghurst has consistently written intelligent and sensual novels ('The Swimming Pool Library', 'The Folding Star' and 'The Spell') that have found a readership that crosses over from his initial audience of readers of Gay fiction to the audience of readers who simply appreciate fine literature. And with THE LINE OF BEAUTY his merits have been rewarded not only by the acclaimed Booker Award, but also by a rather phenomenal presale demand. Hollinghurst is simply one of the best of the current writers.THE LINE OF BEAUTY is more than a finely tuned story about class differences, the foibles of the wealthy and ruling class of England, the hypocrisy of the Thatcher era in the 1980s, the recognition of the media watch dogs gobbling rumors about the government and the concurrent homophobia /rise of AIDS/druggie culture as seen through the proscenium arch of London. This book is very much a character study of one Nicholas Guest, a young middle class lad, graduate of Oxford, who (much like Ripley!) yearns for the luxuries of the wealthy and gentried such as Gerald and Rachel Fedden who live in a mansion in Notting Hill with their troubled (read 'speaks her mind') daughter Catherine and son Toby, the object of gay Nicholas' infatuation since their shared years at Oxford.The novel follows Nick's absorption into the Fedden family, being accepted as an aesthete, his first same sex affair with a handsome black clerk whom he encounters through a personal ad in the gay rag, his dalliances with the famous (including Margaret Thatcher herself), with a millionaire closeted playboy Wani who introduces him to drugs and more, and with creating a magazine with Wani which is the pinnacle of glossy aesthetics cum hoity toity. The various characters in this 'rake's progress' remain threaded through this story until all of the misguided judgments and turns of fate crumble Nick's world of fantasy.Yet as if this strong and fascinating story weren't enough, it is Hollinghurst's intelligence and writing style that mesmerize. He has the ability to begin phases of his tale with peripheral information that causes the reader to wonder exactly where he is taking us: he creates a stage setting with scenery and props that must be in place before the first character speaks the lines that define so cogently where the author has arrived. His quality of prose is exquisite both in describing the beauty seen and imagined and the 'squalor' intermittently encountered. He fleshes out each of his characters with such skill that we feel inside their heads even before they speak their lines.If there is a flaw in this tome it is a minor one: unless the reader is a thorough-going anglophile or has lived in some part of the UK, the various aspects of class distinction and governmental abbreviations require a bit of stalling to decipher. But then what is reading all about, if not for pleasure and for edification? THE LINE OF BEAUTY is a brilliant novel by a gifted writer and deserves the attention of everyone who loves great books. Grady Harp, November 2004
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Discounted or not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thanks to Steven Frieder for his official book club selection! A fascinating read; learned that lots of interesting things happen when gay men went to the bathroom together in 1980's London.