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The Line of Beauty: A Novel Reprint Edition

160 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1582346106
ISBN-10: 1582346100
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4 Stars and Up Feature: Kitchens of the Great Midwest
"Foodies and those who love contemporary literature will devour this novel that is being compared to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge. A standout." --Library Journal Learn more
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Interview with Alan Hollinghurst
Alan Hollinghurst's extraordinarily rich novel The Line of Beauty. has garnered a new level of acclaim for the author after winning the 2004 Man Booker Prize. Hollinghurst speaks about his work in our interview.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Among its other wonders, this almost perfectly written novel, recently longlisted for the Man Booker, delineates what's arguably the most coruscating portrait of a plutocracy since Goya painted the Spanish Bourbons. To shade in the nuances of class, Hollingsworth uses plot the way it was meant to be used—not as a line of utility, but as a thematically connected sequence of events that creates its own mini-value system and symbols.The book is divided into three sections, dated 1983, 1986 and 1987. The protagonist, Nick Guest, is a James scholar in the making and a tripper in the fast gay culture of the time. The first section shows Nick moving into the Notting Hill mansion of Gerald Fedden, one of Thatcher's Tory MPs, at the request of the minister's son, Toby, Nick's all-too-straight Oxford crush. Nick becomes Toby's sister Catherine's confidante, securing his place in the house, and loses his virginity spectacularly to Leo, a black council worker. The next section jumps the reader ahead to a more sophisticated Nick. Leo has dropped out of the picture; cocaine, three-ways and another Oxford alum, the sinisterly alluring, wealthy Lebanese Wani Ouradi, have taken his place. Nick is dimly aware of running too many risks with Wani, and becomes accidentally aware that Gerald is running a few, too. Disaster comes in 1987, with a media scandal that engulfs Gerald and then entangles Nick. While Hollinghurst's story has the true feel of Jamesian drama, it is the authorial intelligence illuminating otherwise trivial pieces of story business so as to make them seem alive and mysteriously significant that gives the most pleasure. This is Nick coming home for the first and only time with the closeted Leo: "there were two front doors set side by side in the shallow recess of the porch. Leo applied himself to the right hand one, and it was one of those locks that require tender probings and tuggings, infinitesimal withdrawals, to get the key to turn." This novel has the air of a classic.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (October 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582346100
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582346106
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
The effusive press comments quoted on the cover and flyleaf of the paperback edition of Alan Hollinghurst's THE LINE OF BEAUTY are totally correct in everything they actually say; they merely fail to mention one of the most important aspects of the book. Hollinghurst writes brilliantly about life among the movers and shakers of Margaret Thatcher's London in the early 1980s. His ability to portray his characters, as one critic puts it, "from just an inch to the left" of how they would see themselves is masterly, and the result is something like the portraits of Goya, a flattering likeness with just a hint of satire. Hollinghurst has perfect pitch when it comes to the social sensibilities and small hypocrisies of the well-bred. As a lineal descendant of Trollope, James, and Forster, he is a well-deserved winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

But none of the reviews quoted in the book mention the gay sex, which is pervasive and often explicitly physical. By portraying the narrator of the book, Nick Guest, as a gay man in an ostensibly straight world, Hollinghurst achieves an oblique angle on the people he observes, moving considerably more than an inch from the axis on which they would ideally see themselves. The glamorous life is glimpsed through a foreground that straight readers might find far from glamorous, especially when it deals with bodily interactions. Ultimately, this becomes essential to the plot, but for a long time it seems merely an authorial device. It is difficult to know whether the author sees these elements as a heightening of the sexual charge, or whether they are deliberately introduced as an antidote to romanticism, and as much an emblem of decadence as the increasingly frequent use of "charlie" (cocaine) by the narrator and his friends.
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54 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Mark Eremite VINE VOICE on June 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Hollinghurst is quoted as having said that if you come to this book looking for your normal sort of "fall from grace" story, you will be disappointed.

He's right.

Hollinghurst has also said that he is more interested in analyzing characters, in protraying them vividly, than in populating his books with people you are likely to identify with or actually care about.

He's right.

Many people have described Hollinghurst as a new genius of prose, as a writer of skill that is long missing in novels from any part of the world.

They're right.

So what's wrong with The Line of Beauty? Not much, but what IS wrong, like a tiny microbe or virus, seems to infect the whole thing.

Read with an eye on the craft of the words, this book is absolutely stunning. Hollinghurst's abilities as a novelist are truly astounding. Even the rather lurid and not particularly tasteful sexual escapades of the novel are crafted with a precision and glory that keep them from wallowing in the muck of which they are made. The affairs, the drugs, the betrayals and the promiscuous, anonymous trysts -- at heart they are what they are, but carved out with Hollinghurst's pen, they become more than that.

Unfortunately, not MUCH more than that.

The deeper meanings, the symbols of the 80s fall from grace, the metaphors woven into the events, these are all admirable evidences of a fine talent, but in the end, the novel seems to stumble over its own style, it clutches at its own class.
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62 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Oliver Tessier on December 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
LINE OF BEAUTY is a fine piece of writing; I wish I could accomplish something nearly as good. It was also a difficult read for me because Hollinghurst provides so little relief from the hollowness of main character's life -- from everyone's lives, really. I know he intends to represent the era, and I have a high tolerance for bleak (meaning that I often adore it); but nothing works without the benefit of contrast, and this is a one-note symphony. I'm glad I read it, but I didn't learn anything, and it left me feeling uniquely depressed. Perhaps that was the writer's intent.
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51 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on November 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"The Line of Beauty" is the first novel I've read by Alan Hollinghurst and having just finished it I'll make a beeline to read his others. Every chapter of this book is a sheer delight.

There are few authors who can move a book at such a torturedly slow pace and still manage a success. The key to "The Line of Beauty" lies in the detail....Hollinghurst unfolds his characters with enormous pathos, keeping their quotes brief and allowing his observations about them to become expanded. Their is a dryness to his writing that seems endemic of British authors but remaining in that style allows the flavor of his characters to come through with great shades of color.

As told through the eyes of the protagonist, Nick, Hollinghurst is able to steer him through a feel that combines an Edwardian England with the present. Nick grows up, to be sure, but he does so in a wafting way, sensitive to the world and his growing self-awareness. If Nick wears rose-colored glasses in the beginning, he has neatly discarded them at the end.

"The Line of Beauty" is really a book about connections...connections in a changing world of friends, lovers, family, illness and death. There is a general sadness that accompanies this book, as it should. Alan Hollinghurst reminds us, through the seriousness of Nick's story, how tenuous we all are in each other's care, no matter what our "standing" is in society... and how far we still have to go.
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