The Spell, Paperback
3 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The Spell is a comedy of sexual manners that follows the interlocking affairs of four men: Robin, an architect in his late forties, who is trying to build an idyllic life in Dorset with his younger lover, Justin; Robin's 22 year old son Danny, a volatile beauty who lives for clubbing and casual sex; and the shy Alex, who is Justin's ex-boyfriend.

As each in turn falls under the spell of romance or drugs, country living or rough trade, a richly ironic picture emerges of the clashing imperatives of modern gay life.

At once lyrical, sceptical and romantic, The Spell confirms Alan Hollinghurst as one of Britain's most important novelists.

From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Line of Beauty.




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Review by

When this book came out, it must have benefited from a substantial gay sympathy bonus. I can't otherwise explain the positive reviews. If this had been a sexual comedy with heterosexual characters, it would be clear that these characters are pretty wooden, the plot with ever-changing mutual couplings a bit tawdry, and the language that of an old spinster, with polished similes (no doubt retrieved from a little notebook titled "Similes that I shall use in one of my next books, regardless if appropriate or not) and an odd reverberation of the "fuck" word as befits someone going through some kind of second puberty. Drug use, raves and gay promiscuity are written about with a "look how naughty us gays are" tone, but never seem authentic. I couldn't plausibly imagine any of the characters, let alone relate to them. This is the third Hollinghurst novel I've read. I preferred it to the constipated emotions of "The Line of Beauty", but missed the thrill I had when reading the Swimming Pool Library (quite a few years ago).

Review by

"The Spell" is a story of a group of men and their changing relationships with each other though love affairs, breakups, reconciliations, stability and death. I think that in a few months I will remember very little about the plot of this book but I will remember the characters and the emotions. I empathised with most of them in one way or another and I envied them.

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