This is an erotic work which centres on the friendship of William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Natwich, searching for someone to write his biography and inherit his traditions.
Will Beckwith's adventures are by far some of the most graphically-detailed I have ever read, but highly erotic for both gay and straight readers. Concurrently, Will encounters an elderly British Lord who wants Will to write his life story. There is an undercurrent of duplicity in all of his relationships, from his passionate, physical affair with the young, uneducated hotel employee, Phil, to the exact nature of his professional dealings with his Lordship. Also, there is a pitying tone to his relationship with his best friend, a doctor who is also gay, but who is the only person who seems to have Will's heart, instead of his libido.
This is not your ordinary novel. Alan Hollinghurst is an extremely intelligent writer, who can also write with an almost animalistic sense of depravity. It is almost like reading two novels; on one page, extremely explicit sex, on another, intellectual stimulation. It is certainly one of the most unique books of its kind I have ever read.