Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Stranger's Child

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst

Can't quite remember what enticed me to buy this one, but the hardback was sitting in my TBR pile for some time before I got round to reading it. Why do I buy hardbacks? They're so blinking heavy to read in bed and take up so much space on my bookcase. I suppose I buy them when I can't wait for the paperback, but in this case it was so long before I read it the paperback had come out! Have decided to buy no more hardbacks unless they're books by writing buddies.

Anyway. Having previously read The Line of Beauty I had an idea what I'd be getting with this latest Hollinghurst. Every male character seemed to be gay - mind you there's less gay sex in this one than in the last! Delightful prose - he's a master at natural sounding dialogue and this is a good book to read to learn how to handle writing multi-person conversations.

The book covers a time period of about 100 years. It starts just before the first world war, when Cecil Valance, a poet and heir to a large estate visits a middle class family. He's having an affair with the younger son, but writes a poem to the daughter, Daphne. When he dies during the war, the poem becomes adopted by the nation as an evocation of that idyllic pre-war time. Daphne goes on to marry Cecil's younger brother. Later in the century, a biographer tracks down Daphne to write Cecil's autobiography, and uncovers (or thinks he's uncovered) all sorts of secrets about the family. It's not an easy book to summarise, but is masterfully written and a joy to read.

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