The Line Of Beauty
- Pan Macmillan
- Publication Date:
- 01 April 2005
- Modern & Contemporary
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Much has been written below, so I will give purely my experience with this book. To me, The Line of Beauty was exactly like the cover- appealing at the first glance, and when studying it more deeply, you discover so many more meanings than you originally thought, so what started as a beautiful picture changed into the ogee line and also, an outsider looking in- both important themes in the book. The language is absolutely beautiful, and even though I am sure that I missed many references, not being well versed in Henry James, it still was pure joy to read. I think that it is one of the best coming of age books I have ever read- and at the same time a splendid satire over the double standards of our time.
A gorgeously written book. Since so many people before me have provided such complete summaries, I will simply pick out one of many paragraphs that moved me."What really was his understanding with Wani? The pursuit of love seemed to need the cultivation of indifference. The deep connection between them was so secret that at times it was hard to believe it existed. He wondered if anyone knew--had even a flicker of a guess, an intuition blinked away by its own absurdity. How could anyone tell? He felt there must always be hints of a secret affair, some involuntary tenderness or respect, a particular way of not noticing each other...He wondered if it ever would be known, or if they would take the secret to the grave. For a minute he felt unable to move, as if he were hypnotized by Wani's image..."And the paragraph that alludes to the novel's title--"The double curve was Hogarth's 'line of beauty', the snakelike flicker of an instinct, of two compulsions held in one unfolding movement. He ran his hand down Wani's back. He didn't think Hogarth had illustrated this best example of it, the dip and swell --- he had chosen harps and branches, bones rather than flesh. Really it was time for a new Analysis of Beauty".This novel is so much more than I'd expected. It depicts London in the 1980s, during the socially conservative Margaret Thatcher years. There's an undercurrent of racism and class snobbery and all that hypocrisy, and of course homophobia and the tragic spread of AIDS.Nick Guest is aptly named, since he is always the outsider. He is living with his friend (not lover) Toby and his family, in the opulent surroundings and society of the upper class, while he writes his thesis on the style of Henry James. Toby's father Gerald is a member of parliament who is eventually implicated in a couple scandals. It also comes out that Nick, while living under the same roof, has been having a homosexual affair with the son of a famously rich man. Gerald scapegoats Nick, and in the end, the friendships Nick had held onto for years are exposed as meaningless charades, while his closest lovers die. Everything comes to an end, as Nick's young life will, too. It's all so sad, but also so beautifully written. This story will stay with me for quite some time.
Frustrated by his first brush with romance, Nick Guest feels he’s been “swept to the brink of some new promise,” and the moment is profoundly poignant. Though “The Line of Beauty” runs through a period scarcely more than thirty years in the past, time already seems to have rendered Margaret Thatcher’s England as misty and distant as something out of “Brideshead Revisited.” Could the world really have changed this much so quickly? That misty quality is deceptive. In this penetrating and mature work, Alan Hollinghurst employs a hard, sharp wit to delineate the sort of moral bankruptcy that attended the early days of the HIV pandemic. As in Hollinghurst’s “The Swimming Pool Library,” the contrast between the rather savage tale and his complex and contemplative style proves riveting. At Oxford, the youthful main character obsesses over a friend from a wealthy background. Visiting their home, Nick finds himself seduced by the pleasures of wealth and yearns to “steep himself in the difficult romance of the family.” Someone should have warned him to be careful what he wished for. He becomes a chronic houseguest, and his initiation into the world of erotic love (for which he’s “achingly ready and completely unprepared”) is concomitant with his passage into a realm of privilege and prejudice. As in all his work, the author adroitly steers the tone through personal drama to scathing social satire. Along the way, he veers into a veritable tour of British literary icons from Austin to Waugh – with an especially satisfying journey through the heart of Henry James territory – without ever diminishing the impact of his own remarkable voice.
2004 Booker prize winner. An amazingly written book. He drops you down into all the detail of a scene, not only physical description but all the little gestures and language people use to subtly communicate. The rise and fall of a Thatcher politician, seen through the eyes of a gay friend of his son, paralleled by the intrigues of gay love and the advent of AIDs. The addictions of power, sex, and drugs.
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