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The Line of Beauty [Audio CD]

Alan Hollinghurst , Alex Jennings
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 2005
This story is set in the summer of 1983, where young Nick Guest, an innocent in the matters of politics and money, has moved into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens'. Gerald, an ambitious new Tory MP, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their children Toby and Catherine. Nick had idolized Toby at Oxford, but in his London life, it will be the troubled Catherine who becomes his friend and his uneasy responsibility. At the boom years of the mid-80s unfold, Nick becomes caught up in the Feddens' world. In an era of endless possibility, Nick finds himself able to pursue his own private obsession, with beauty - a prize as compelling to him as power and riches are to his friends. 'Luminous ...[an] astonishingly Jamesian novel, a crafty, glittering, sidelong bid by a contemporary master of English prose to be considered heir to James himself. For a novel that spans only four years, 1983 to 1987, it seems to encompass a world as capacious as any in a James novel' - "The Times". 'There is something memorable on every page...there is much to savour in "The Line of Beauty", not least its humour, a shivering yet morally exacting satire that leaves no character untouched' - "Times Literary Supplement". 'Superb...Alan Hollinghurst is in the prime of his writing life, and the immaculate rolling cadences of his new novel are right now the keenest pleasure English prose has to offer' - "Daily Telegraph". 'Quite simply a joy to read. It is solid and traditional, beautifully crafted. A quiet masterpiece' - "Scotland on Sunday."
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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From Amazon

Interview with Alan Hollinghurst
Alan Hollinghurst's extraordinarily rich novel The Line of Beauty. has garnered a new level of acclaim for the author after winning the 2004 Man Booker Prize. Hollinghurst speaks about his work in our interview.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Among its other wonders, this almost perfectly written novel, recently longlisted for the Man 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Beautiful! Aug. 24 2005
This novel is the winner of this year's Booker Prize over a book I loved and ardently supported, David Mitchell's CLOUD ATLAS. Did it deserve to beat out Mitchell's opus? Arguably, yes. Where Mitchell's magnificent novel is raw, vibrant, explosive, exciting, poetic, and prophetic, THE LINE OF BEAUTY is refined, subtle, understated, touching, eloquent, and reflective.There are few authors who can move a book at such a torturedly slow pace and still manage a success. The key to "The Line of Beauty" lies in the detail....Hollinghurst unfolds his characters with enormous pathos, keeping their quotes brief and allowing his observations about them to become expanded. Their is a dryness to his writing that seems endemic of British authors but remaining in that style allows the flavor of his characters to come through with great shades of color. This is not a fast-paced read, the way McCrae's KATZENJAMMER is, or the way some of the more well-known bestsellers are. But it is a great novel and should be read for its wonderful writing and style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars all style, no substance... Sept. 2 2009
I just finished this book and I am still wondering what it's about. The author was clearly trying to emulate (and update) Evelyn Waugh, and this is where he clearly missed the mark. Buried between the author's long-winded passages of the otherwise boring lives of the British moneyed class (which by the 80's was well into decline) is an attempt to draw out a thin plot where nothing really happens to characters you do not really care about.

If you want an engaging read with both style and substance, dust off "Brideshead Revisited", "Vile Bodies", or "Scoop" instead.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The prose is worked with precision that makes continuous, but subtle, self-reference to Henry James' art; the themes are interwoven and all-encompassing but approached with an impressionist skill that allows the canvas of Thatcher's England of the early 80s to be perfectly and acurately drawn but with unnoticeable workmanship; the hero, Nick, carries with him and brings to a phenomenal yet human apothéose the 20th century notion of protagonist that is neither hero nor anti-hero: he is what most people were in 80s Britain: too lost to apply values. Behind it all, a philosophical attempt, not just as theme but a true quest of the author, to define Beauty. An amazing amazing piece of literature, worth reading over and over and over again.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the Outside, Looking In April 19 2008
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
One of the biggest challenges of any novelist is to provide a perspective that's accessible to us and helpful in understanding what's being portrayed. Alan Hollinghurst has achieved remarkable results by stationing his narrator, Nick Guest, outside of all the worlds he inhabits. Guest is like a spirit rising amused over the action that can draw us a picture while recording every sound that's created or uttered.

Here are the worlds that Guest helps us explore:

-Tory MP life during the Thatcher years
-Young Oxford graduates looking for a place
-A young man exploring his homosexuality
-Wealthy British on the make for more
-Middle-aged married life
-Inner life of a young manic-depressive

The book's overall theme is about everyday hypocrisy and the large price that has to be paid by those who pretend to be other than what they are and believe.

The story evolves in three time periods: 1983, 1986, and 1987. In all three years, Nick Guest resides with the family of an Oxford friend where the father is a rising conservative MP. Nick has an unofficial role as low-cost lodger to keep on eye on the friend's troubled sister. The family knows that Nick is looking for a boy friend and is open about accepting his sexuality. The three years give us a chance to learn more about the characters and to see how their relationships change. The 1987 period brings all that had been known in private into public with large consequences for all.

The book is filled with great scenes where nuances of knowledge, awareness, perception, accent, and perspective separate and unite the characters. Often, contrasting scenes occur back-to-back so that the contrasts are even more obvious.
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