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The Folding Star [Paperback]

Alan Hollinghurst

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Book Description

May 16 1995
Edward Manners — thirty three and disaffected — escapes to a Flemish city in search of a new life. Almost at once he falls in love with seventeen-year-old Luc, and is introduced to the twilight world of the 1890s Belgian painter Edgard Orst.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; New edition edition (May 16 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099476916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099476917
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 304 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #288,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

As in his first novel, The Swimming Pool Library, British author Hollinghurst skillfully combines lush details, a reflective voice and erotic depictions of gay life and relationships. Edward Manners, a 33-year-old aspiring British writer, arrives in a Flemish town to work as a private tutor in English, only to find himself obsessively smitten with one of his pupils, Luc Altidore, a 17-year-old expelled from school. Through a second pupil, Manners is also drawn into the world of (fictional) painter Edgard Orst, who died during the Nazi occupation of Belgium and whose paintings depict an infatutation with a red-haired actress. At first, events are presented as clues, and Manners pursues his preoccupation with Luc as if unraveling a mystery. Triptych patterns abound: the reassembling of three panels of an Orst painting, trios of friends and lovers and the three-part structure of this complex, mature and richly textured novel. Meanwhile, AIDS adds shadow to the depths of the contemporary gay relationships portrayed here. The title, taken from Milton, refers to the first evening star; like that bright herald of night, this extraordinary, often darkly funny novel captures our attention.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Hollinghurst's first novel, The Swimming Pool Library (LJ 9/1/88), which offered a somewhat critical look at gay life in pre-AIDS England, received much critical acclaim. This, his second novel, is also likely to receive considerable praise-and excoriation. Its theme is obsession and its object is a 17-year-old Belgian youth, who, just prior to disappearing, is graphically ravished by his 32-year-old English tutor. While Luc is no angel and, in fact, can be seen as the seducer in this incident, the fact that he is a minor (at least by U.S. standards) and Edward his teacher are sure to land the work on more than one banned list. This is too bad, because taken as a whole the novel offers a fascinating, often eloquent look at the nature of desire and the impossibility of making time stand still. There will definitely be an audience for this book, but it will be limited. Larger public and academic libraries should have a copy available. [Finalist for the British Booker Prize.-Ed.]-David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
--David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  33 reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of obsession for the youthful beauty Nov. 13 2004
By C. B Collins Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Alan Hollinghurst is certainly a crafty wordsmith. This book is beautifully written.

The story is basically that of an aging gay male becoming obsessed with his beautiful young student. Edward Manners becomes the tutor for a wealthy high school aged fellow, Luc. At first Edward sees a thin immature youth but as the story progresses, Edward becomes more obsessed with Luc and the descriptions of Luc change to match Edward's changing perception. This portion of the story is well told and certainly accurately portrays the process of obsession that seduces gradually, obliterating common sense and good judgement.

Edward recognizes that he has lost his bearings when he finds himself continually thinking about Luc, spying on him when he is on holiday with his friends, imagining him having sex with other young men or women, remaining fixated as to whether Luc is gay or straight, and even leaving tutoring sessions to use the bathroom so that he can smell Luc's dirty laundry.

Hollinghurst then begins to break the bubbles or desire that Edward has created. Luc becomes more realistic and less idealized. He becomes more human and more mundane. Eventually all the questions Edward has about Luc are answered, or at least many of the questions are answered. Edward begins the painful process of healing the wounds left by obsession as Luc drifts out of his life.

I found the book to be one of the best descriptions of the natural history of obsession since Robert Plant's The Catholic. Obsession is revealed to be a wounding, out of mind experience, from which we only gradually recover. Hollingshurst caught it well in this well written book.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gorgeous, haunting story of desire, memory and loss May 5 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you read Hollinghurst's first novel THE SWIMMING POOL LIBRARY, you know that the excellence of his writing puts him more in a tradition with the likes of such masters as George Eliot, Henry James and E.M. Forster than in the tradition of contemporary gay fiction, no matter how boldly graphic some of his moments might be. But whereas SWIMMING POOL LIBRARY is a breakneck tale of reckless, amoral and privileged youth before AIDS, THE FOLDING STAR is in some ways its spiritual successor - its mid30s protagonist has experienced enough loss (of his father, several friends, a first love) to have shed the certainty and arrogance that characterized the first book's young subject, and has fled his English hometown to a small unnamed city in Belgium where he becomes the tutor of two high school boys, one of whom, Luc Altidore, the subject of a previous mysterious "scandal," becomes his obsession. But as in LOLITA, the obsession is as sad as it is perverse, reflecting back more on Edward's (the protag.) receding youth and present aimlessness than on the attributes of the boy himself, who, like Lolita, is revealed coyly and only half outside the shadow of Edward's own projections. Midway through the story, Edward goes home for the funeral of an old friend and boyhood lover; this is where Hollinghurst conjures all of Edward's past in a half-dream of recollections (one of which reveals the haunting source of the book's cryptic title), and when Edward returns to Belgium for the astonishing final third of the book, the reader is finally able to look at his present rudderlessness as sequel to a past too stiflingly rich in memories. Indeed, THE FOLDING STAR seems less a meditation on erotic obsession than it does on memory and loss, all its memories of emotional and sexual awakening evoked in such beautifully spectral terms that by the end the book's real fetish seems to be the past itself -- a distinctly British, Wordsworthian past where people, hills, even stars become the repositories of memories almost too precious to express aloud. If THE SWIMMING POOL LIBRARY was a fast and shocking read, THE FOLDING STAR is thoughtful and melancholy - but I'm hard pressed to think of a late 20th century writer who depicts both the outer world and the inner life in prose as exquisite and moving as Hollinghurst
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Sprawling and Admirable Epic Dec 16 2004
By Owen Keehnen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
THE FOLDING STAR is a sprawling neo-Victorian achievement, full of memorable characters, breathtaking description, and graphic gay sex. At its surface the novel is the story of Edward Manners - a 40ish, drinky, and rather raunchy former academic who relocates to a small Belgian town to work as a tutor. Almost at once Edward becomes infatuated with Luc, a student. His obsession is comic, tragic, and romantic. With this as its core THE FOLDING STAR then begins to reveal a much deeper and more complex reality. The interconnectedness of various lives and histories soon begins to become apparent, with former details gaining greater significance and literary relief in this engrossing epic of obsession and taboo. This is a wonderful book though I found it a bit dry and somewhat cold...it was a book to admire rather than embrace.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Exercise in Emotional Provocation Dec 7 2000
By Adam Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Folding Star was, in my opinion, one of the best books I have ever read. The writing is smooth and flawless, and the everything was beautifully and carefully constructed. Despite the fact that this book is about a controversial topic, homosexuality, I believe that it should be judged by its quality, which is outstanding. What made me enjoy this book the most was the rich variety of emotions that it provoked. Happiness, anxiety, fear, love, hate; they're all in this book, and they are brought about perfectly. The ending, in particular, provokes haunting, mixed emotions that will not be forgotten simply because the book has ended.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and provocative, introspective read June 5 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Hollinghurst does a great job of putting the reader into the shoes of Mr. Manners. They are not shoes I would endeavor to walk a mile in however. I should think they are not suppossed to be. Hollinghurst picks continually on the pathetic situation and disposition of Mr. Manners. It was with great effort that I finished the novel, because I saw all of my frustrations and vulnerability in Mr. Manners.
Manners is older and smarter than his prey, and he exploits his position and wordly knowledge to attain that which should not divinely be his own. And he knows it. It is all at once a self-effacing and self-serving theme. A man who has seen his better years, trying to stoke the flames back into being. He knows he does not deserve the angelic creatures he chases, but he chases them yet. If he marries his body with them he advances his pathetic situation even if only by proxy and contact.
Is Hollinghurst embracing the plight of the modern lonely Homosexual? Is this the essence of the lonely Gay? Is some dejected creature trying to elevate his sense of self-worth by gaining acceptance from other more worthy men? Is he reaching for self-accpetance by seeing himself unioned with the manifestations of his young self? Perhaps it is this conflict that many men face and try to conquer. I know this will not be pleasing and a little to neat for most Homosexuals to embrace, but I think it warrants consideration vice an early dismissal.
All in all the novel left me feeling lonely. I had a tremendous feeling of discontent when the story had concluded. I felt the desperation of Manners and I wondered where on earth this man belonged...seemingly nowhere. I think the Novel delivers exactly what Hollinghurst intended. It is not a read for the weak of heart and don't look to be spoon fed a wonderfull little Cinderella tale where the goodness of man defeats physical beauty and finally the chubby older guy lives happily ever after with the Adonis. It ain't happening, shipmate!
Somewhere in my remarks I tried to work in how much I enjoyed and believed the gritty, all-too-real sex scenes. But I missed my mark.
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