Archive for March, 2011

Winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize,
Published by Picador, 2004 (£7.99, paperback)

Quick Outline

Alan Hollinghurst’s, The Line of Beauty, is set in Thatcher dominated London. The pages open onto the city elite, the politicians, the millionaire entrepreneurs; their snobbery, laughter and dry conceit. Nick, our hero (or anti-hero) is gay, just out of Oxford and staying, indefinitely, with his friend’s family, the Feddens. Living in the attic bedroom of their Notting Hill home, Nick becomes embroiled in Fedden family life. Gerald Fedden, a determined Tory MP, his wife Rachel and two children Toby and Catherine exist together in the blind clasp of upper-class freedom and privilege, a world which Nick, despite seeing clearly its hypocrisies and flaws, comes to romanticise, adoring his position as a fostered member and viewing his own parents and their life with a mixture of shame and condescension.

As the decade progresses Nick finds his destiny inextricably tangled with the Feddens. The inescapable fall in all of their fortunes is a mess which harbours the huge merciless nature of the decade to the private and personal concerns existing amongst Nick and the Feddens; their ability to regain themselves, or not, a daunting testament on class, social, and human values.

A Picture Portrait

Private gardens: Nick takes his first boyfriend Leo to the gardens which belong to the Feddens and their neighbours. His status as ‘key-holder’ marks his inclusion in the exclusive Fedden world. Nick uses the garden for love-making, unknowingly demonstrating the proficient concealment provided by wealth and power. The gardens an apt symbol for the politician Gerald and his co-workers, their life of corruption finding little in the way of rebuke or reproach.

London summers: For Nick, young and experimental, London is magical and sunny, romantic and fabulous. Strangely, although parts of the book are spent in traffic, on the bus, in the car queing- London disconnects itself from the bustling, smokey-monster usually imagined. For a book set, and concerned with city living, it defies sense, tinted, as it is in blues and greens. Perhaps something to do with Nick and his obsession with beauty.

Mahogany: The smell of polish, the musty sense of old, antiques and their grand arrangement. All this old gathers itself around the book, like Nick’s obsession with Henry James, the idea of classical work, art, music, furniture; it litters the pages and seems to stand against the new, causing it to appear dangerous and untrustworthy.


Favourite Review…

…by Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times, who writes that:  ‘The title alludes to the S-shaped double curve, thought by William Hogarth to be the model of beauty and elegance in painting. Conjured by Nick to describe a lover’s body, it also illustrates the ways in which opposite compulsions and conflicting feelings flow into each other incessantly. It is an apposite figure for Hollinghurst’s novel, which must rank among the funniest ever written about Thatcher’s Britain, whilst remaining one of the most tragically sad.’


My only criticism concerns the all too easy way in which the reader becomes Nick. Therefore, if you have a nagging doubt that your Men’s Fitness addiction isn’t one-hundred percent straight, then leave this book well alone. A quarter of the way through and you’ll be gayer than Graham Norton and Alan Carr’s beautiful love child. On the other hand, maybe it’s time to get out of the closet? In that case, read away!





4/5 Stars


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