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Book Review: ‘The Line of Beauty’ by Alan Hollinghurst

Title: The Line of Beauty

Author: Alan Hollinghurst

Length: 501 pages

Publisher: Picador


Having read Alan Hollinghurst’s most recent novel ‘The Sparshot Affair’ and throughly enjoying it, I found out this is his most loved book and couldn’t resist when I saw it in the shop.

In the Summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of wealthy Feddens: Gerald, an ambitious Tory MP, his wife Rachel and their children Toby and Catherine. Innocent of politics and money, Nick is swept up into the Feddens’ world and an era of endless possibility, all the while pursuing his own private obsession with beauty.

‘The pursuit of love seemed to need the cultivation of indifference. The deep connection between them was so secret that at times it was hard to believe it existed. He wondered if anyone knew – had even a flicker of a guess, an intuition blinked away by its own absurdity.’

I’ve been trying to read more queer novels lately, whether they be young adult, general fiction, romance. I have to say, this is one of the best I’ve read in a while.

This books queer storyline is sublime. It’s starts out with the main protagonist, Nick a recent oxford graduate, trying to find love and lose his virginity. It deals with his first relationship, his first sexual experience, all with someone of lower class than himself. The latter half of the book, we find Nick in a secret relationship with one of his engaged Oxford friends, Wani. This relationship is tender, loving, complicated and realistic. It’s the heart of the book. Nick is also out in book, at a time and in a social class that wasn’t easy. This book is about his, not about his sexual orientation which is refreshing.

‘He felt there must always be hints of a secret affair, some involuntary tenderness or respect, a particular way of not noticing each other… He wondered if it ever would be known, or if they would take the secret to the grave.’

However, this book is so much more that this. It’s political storyline is so intriguing. I didn’t think I’d be interested in this side of the book, but I enjoyed it. I think it’s mainly due the fact that this book has fantastic sub characters. Gerald, the MP. Catherine, who deals with Mental Illness. Leo, Nicks first boyfriend. Wani, his secret lover.

This book, although published in 1993, is set in throughout the decade of the 80s. And it’s really a book of its time. The political storyline, with Margaret Thatcher. The gay storyline, with gay men being out in the open, used to be sexually free, now having to deal with the AIDS crisis.

This book is sophisticated. Its specific. It’s written in a very clever way, it’s detailed, quite sexually graphic and at times dense, with its political subplot and the array of characters you meet. But what is so clever that Alan Hollinghurst has done, is that we get to see the world through Nicks eyes. He’s an outsider to their world, therefore making the characters, plot and time more accessible. It’s so real, that’s all down to the talent of Alan Hollinghurst, with his excellent choice of perspective.

This book, was published over 25 years ago. It’s been made into a BBC series. I think it’s fair to say it’s on its way to becoming a modern classic. I truly feel it should be on the list of books you have to read.

Until the next review


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