The Line of Beauty

by Alan Hollinghurst | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0330483218 Global Overview for this book
Registered by skribble of London, Greater London United Kingdom on 9/3/2005
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4 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by skribble from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Saturday, September 03, 2005
Jonathan Bate of the Sunday Telegraph says:
'As good as the English novel gets. Almost every sentance is a thing of beauty and the book as a whole will prove itself a joy for ever, the definitive reimagining of the decade of Thatcher and Aids'

Personally I didn't really get into it. The plot never gripped me and I couldn't like the characters so i found it hard work despite the fantastic quality of writing.

Journal Entry 2 by skribble from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Monday, September 12, 2005
I will be sending this out as a mini-ray to:

Jenatleisure
Normy
CatharinaL

Journal Entry 3 by skribble at Postal Release in Postal release, Postal Release -- Controlled Releases on Thursday, September 22, 2005

Released 14 yrs ago (9/22/2005 UTC) at Postal Release in Postal release, Postal Release -- Controlled Releases

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

RELEASE NOTES:

Posted this morning!

Journal Entry 4 by Jenatleisure from Chobham, Surrey United Kingdom on Monday, October 03, 2005
arrived when I was on holiday last week.

Journal Entry 5 by Jenatleisure from Chobham, Surrey United Kingdom on Monday, October 31, 2005
mmm I know this book got great reviews but this was my second attempt to read it.

I did finish it this time but I really couldn’t sympathise with the main character.
I just found him a tad pathetic. I hated the way he looked down on his hosts in an intellectual and inverted snobbish way but made no attempt to give up their hospitality and make his own way in the world.

I kept wondering if this book got such rave reviews because of the underlying themes and everyone thought it was brave to tackle the subject of aids and homosexual relationships in the 80's.

The novel did make me think about the hypocrisy of the 80's and the Thatcher era but as I didn’t empathise with Nick I didn’t find it a particularly moving novel.

Thanks for lending me this book so I could finally finish it.

will send on to Normy

Journal Entry 6 by Normy from Morecambe, Lancashire United Kingdom on Monday, November 07, 2005
Thanks for sending this on Jenatleisure - I received it a couple of days ago but didn't journal due to power cuts. Thanks Skribble for the opportunity to read this - I'm on a mission to read the Booker Prize Winners! Thank goodness there's no-one after me yet - I have a huge Mt Toobie!

Journal Entry 7 by Normy from Morecambe, Lancashire United Kingdom on Monday, February 20, 2006
I bumped this up Mt Toobie when CatharinaL joined the ring. It still took me ages to read because I really didn't engage with it, and if it wasn't for my mission to read all the Booker Prizewinners I would have given up on it very early on. About a third of the way through I began to get interested in one of the characters, but by the next chapter he was pretty much out of the story, and the rest was a plod. I totally agree with Jenatleisure's review.

I just can't believe all the superlatives about this book relate the the one I read LOL! I am surely on a different planet to the Booker Prizewinner judges.

Thanks for the opportunity to cross another one off my list skribble, it is appreciated. All packed up and ready to go off to CatharinaL next time I'm near a post office - probably tomorrow.

Journal Entry 8 by CatharinaL from Pirkkala, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Friday, February 24, 2006
Look what just came in the mail! Thanks for sending, Normy--I'll get to reading this asap.

*****

[25/02] I finished the book a minute ago :-) Obviously, I couldn't let go of it once I started reading... I'd had this book on my Wish List, so I was anxious to finally get to reading it. More comments to follow once I get my thoughts sorted out! For now, I'd like to say I really, really admire Hollinghurst's style and I enjoyed this book just as much as The Swimming-Pool Library. Pretty much the same themes and scenes were described in both novels, so I was ever-so-slightly disappointed by the lack of 'new' ideas, but all in all this was a very beautiful, entertaining, and thought-provoking read.

Journal Entry 9 by CatharinaL from Pirkkala, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Ok, here goes...

This one is a very epitome of the Eighties and a parodical period piece of Thatcherism, too. A major theme of both the novel and the era it depicts is surface: superficiality and superficial beauty, shallowness, hypocrisy, emotional emptiness. Under the upper-class surface manners lies the iron-y grip of money and financial power, the core of dominion... The bubble of the Eighties' boom: a world where everything was what it did not seem. A bubble which also acted as a protection... And of course, there's the subcultural bubble of the gay community. The theme of surface also refers to skin; there certainly was plenty of that exposed, too, in the novel :-) However, while the subversive The Swimming-Pool Library was all about shock value, The Line of Beauty is much more tranquil, sarcastic, and silently observing; deliciously subtle (and not-so-subtle) social commentary.

The use of traditional narration is a powerful tool of stylish irony (or ironical elegance?). Also, the non-traditional themes (homosexuality, AIDS, yuppie drugs) are brilliantly exposed in the traditional frame. The text flows incredibly well, and even if there's not much, or quite as much, plot as one would expect in a, say, traditional 500-page novel, it's a pleasure to read all the way! I adore the mastery of style in individual words, phrases, and passages, but also in the overall narrative and the technique of directing the reader, right or wrong. The gaps in the narrative, what was left unsaid and what was implied or hinted, also seem to bring the main character closer to the reader, 'inside the reader's head'.

I loved the symbolism, the coded trigger words marking access to both the gay culture and classical English literature. The overt and covert allusions to Henry James's works were splendidly blended in. (I have a hunch that Trollope might have been incorporated, too, but I'm not a Trollope connoisseur so I wouldn't know!)

Another thing about Hollinghurst is that I always end up sympathizing with his characters. The main protagonists seem to be very similar every time: essentially, openly gay; upper-class or otherwise associated with the 'circles'; Oxbridge graduates; fanatic about arts, especially belles-lettres and classical music; and attracted to the pool. Slightly pathetic and definitely snobbish, but not in an off-putting way, because their development is always portrayed in a skilfully parodied, self-conscious way, in the style of the classics. In this case, Nick develops from an inexperienced youngster (empathy) to a yuppie toy (corruption), and finally to a maturing done-it-all guy (blank melancholy).

The one thing that troubles me is the notion of omnipresent (homo)sexuality: all boarding-school boys are supposed to be gay, there's always an anonymous sex partner available around the corner, and most of the respected members of society, in fact, everybody, turn out more or less gay once you bother to scratch the surface. This might have a seed of truth in it on a very, very philosophical level, but somehow the effect is just too extreme and improbable in a novel.

The rails in the cover suggest the touch of iron-y/irony... and I can't help but think the side-tracks in that 1984 Bronski Beat video. So is it romanticized irony, or an ironical romance? With Hollinghurst, I'm always inspired to write lengthy journal entries and still can't quite say what I wanted to say :-)

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