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The Swimming-Pool Library (Vintage International) [Kindle Edition]

Alan Hollinghurst
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

A literary sensation and bestseller both in England and America, The Swimming-Pool Library is an enthralling, darkly erotic novel of homosexuality before the scourge of AIDS; an elegy, possessed of chilling clarity, for ways of life that can no longer be lived with impunity. "Impeccably composed and meticulously particular in its observation of everything" (Harpers & Queen), it focuses on the friendship of two men: William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, an old Africa hand, searching for someone to write his biography and inherit his traditions.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On entering a London public lavatory in blithe pursuit of quick, anonymous sex, beautiful and roguish young aristocrat William Beckwith isconfronted instead with an ancient, doddering member of the British House of Lords who, after muttering an incoherent string of polite non sequiturs, promptly keels over at his feet in embarrassed but undeniable coronary arrest. After saving the old man's life, Will is invited to tea by the grateful and slightly senile Lord Nantwich, who, surprised by Will's impressive lineage and appalled at his state of idle unemployment, engages the young man to write the Nantwich life story. Thus begins the unusual relationship that forms the core of this funny, sad and beautifully written novel. The Swimming Pool Library weaves a rich and fascinating tapestry of Britain's gay subculture spanning pre-World War I through the sexually abandoned early '80s, stopping short at the doorstep of AIDS. Hollinghurst's prose is fresh, witty and wise, and his ever-surprising, sinuously unfurling story is told with insouciant grace and unabashed sexuality. BOMC and QPBC alternates. (September) .
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This novel created quite a stir in Britain and will probably do so herefor it minces no words in providing a realistic glimpse of the gay lifestyle in pre-AIDS London. Yet the approach is much more "literary" than sensational, the author masterfully re-creating a sense of time and place and the social and cultural milieu in which gay men operated. The occasionally graphic descriptions of sex will likely upset some readers, but for most the aura of unselfconscious eroticism will provide a sense of authenticity that only adds to its impact. Still, this is not a nostalgia piece; the author clearly understands that the freedom to satisfy lust often interferes with the ability to find fulfillment and love. Perceptive and well written; belongs in most academic and public libraries. David W. Henderson, Eckered Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2829 KB
  • Print Length: 351 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0679722564
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 21, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005KDE59Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,497 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly Erotic October 26, 2002
This novel is well-written, and vacillates between extremely well-written fiction and minutely detailed erotica. The story centers around Will, a promiscuous, narcisscistic, wealthy gay young Londoner in the pre-AIDS era of the early 1980's. Will has no financial or moral restrictions. He leads us on a journey through the hot summer of 1983, that is at times graphic, and also historically engrossing.
Will Beckwith's adventures are by far some of the most graphically-detailed I have ever read, but highly erotic for both gay and straight readers. Concurrently, Will encounters an elderly British Lord who wants Will to write his life story. There is an undercurrent of duplicity in all of his relationships, from his passionate, physical affair with the young, uneducated hotel employee, Phil, to the exact nature of his professional dealings with his Lordship. Also, there is a pitying tone to his relationship with his best friend, a doctor who is also gay, but who is the only person who seems to have Will's heart, instead of his libido.
This is not your ordinary novel. Alan Hollinghurst is an extremely intelligent writer, who can also write with an almost animalistic sense of depravity. It is almost like reading two novels; on one page, extremely explicit sex, on another, intellectual stimulation. It is certainly one of the most unique books of its kind I have ever read.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the most intelligent gay novels in years July 8, 2002
Alan Hollinghurst may be the most intelligent gay English-language novelist writing today, with the possible exceptions of Edmund White and Gore Vidal, but Hollinghurst is neither so precious as White nor so nutty as Vidal. THE SWIMMING-POOL LIBRARY was his first effort, and remains his best. It marvelously captures the life enjoyed by a wealthy, handsome, leisured, and predatory London aristocrat, William Beckwith, in the early Eighties, and the way his life changes when he meets Chalres Beckwith, a titled man whom Beckwith incorrectly assumes lived a life very similar to his own. The novel is basically about the absence of gay history at the time it was written, and the ways in which privilege and security can be taken for granted. The book read very differently in 1988 (at the darkest moments of the AIDS crisis) than it does today, and its message seems less elegiac in many ways than before. It's not a novel without its problems: although Beckwith is clearly intended to be understood as morally blinkered (and he does get a something of a comeuppance eventually), his incessant vanity and self-congratulation does make him eventually a bit of a bore as first-person narrators go. Hollinghurst also witholds crucial information about the plot until the very last fifty pages of the novel, as he did in his next effort THE FOLDING STAR, so that you're not even fully aware of what the mystery guiding the novel's action really is until fairly late in the game. While this makes the final revelation more of a surprise, the book reads much better the second time than the first, when (as again with THE FOLDING STAR) there seems to be little plot to sustain your interest. Most readers have found Hollinghrust's third book, THE SPELL, the weakest of his efforts so far: it will be interesting to see if he can either repeat or surmount the success of THE SWIMMING-POOL LIBRARY.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I recently re-read this book. It is a unique amalgam of very serious, high tone fiction and highly graphic, unadulterated scenes involving the kind of sexuality that would not make it into books that school systems adopt for even advanced high school courses. The narrator is rather selfish, aristocratic, but also appealing, in that, he makes no excuses for his human failings. At times, the depiction of gay haunts and habits is highly satirical, for example, the repeated references to "Trouble for Men," a cologne which wafts through the changing room of the swimming pool club that the narrator frequents [perhaps a dig at the extreme popularity which the Calvin Klein fragrance "Obsession" once had.] There is a two-tier structure to the work that is a little bit hard to deal with: the modern protagonist is contrasted with a man from an older era, whose life in earlier decades, when gay men were more in the shadows is meant to provide a counterpoint to the relative freedom which the younger man enjoys. This book is a rich, complex work which repays close reading and rereading.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read January 19, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm enjoying reading this book again and again. I find that strange.

I am a retired Foreign Service officer who spent most of his adult life processing visa applications in overseas countries. Part of this book is about being an overseas diplomat (from England, though, not the USA) and that appealed to me.

But I bought the book completely for its title: "The Swimming Pool Library." I swam in college, way back in the 1960s, and almost made it to the Olympic Trials. And I like books, so the title, "Swimming Pool Library" appealed to me. I'm retired and I was looking for books to fill my library and fill my time.

I didn't know it would be about the homosexual lifestyle, and indeed as a straight man with grown children and grandchildren, I didn't have any appeal for that subject.

But the book has grabbed a hold of me and I've read it three and a half times in the past two months. I guess retirement does something to the human mind...At any rate, it's good writing and the main character gets into some interesting predicaments and I liked the other parts of the book - the diaries from being a British diplomat in Africa - and the gay thing just has me feeling and thinking things I never felt or thought about before, at least not consciously that I know of.

My wife keeps looking at me reading this on the porch but I don't care; if she wants to pick it up and read it herself maybe it would open up some dialog that we should have had decades ago.

I love my wife and my children and grandchildren, and I love this book.

Buy it. You'll be presently surprised.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Treading Water
Kind of pretentious. I had forgotten it. But when It came back to me I found myself thinking better of it. Great Title.
Published 2 months ago by Gerry Robinson
3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty so much
I enjoyed Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty so much, that I purchased this. This book actually wasn't as engaging for me. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Courtney
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of serious gay fiction
This writer of gay fiction is by far and away one of the best, The tales are gripping , impossible to put the book down because each chapter leads into another intriguing... Read more
Published 5 months ago by David Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great dealer
Published 5 months ago by gary d
5.0 out of 5 stars The heir of Eliot and Galsworthy
Beautiful writing, a sexy wish fulfillment fantasy, engaging and amusing, and wonderfully placed in London. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jeff Gillman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
My favourite contemporary writer
Published 7 months ago by Mike Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars Ironic Advice: This Review Says, "Don't Read Customer Reviews"
I almost didn't read this because of negative reviews. After reading it, I have two reactions: I enjoyed and was at times dazzled by this strong first novel, and I am convinced... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Craig Mosher
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
A horrible disappointment after choosing the dinner for book club and producing a provocative discussion.
Published 9 months ago by Jean R Lyle
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-plotted story with excellent style and several surprises
A well-plotted story with excellent style and several surprises. The ending was a little flat but OK. Read more
Published 9 months ago by OBM
4.0 out of 5 stars Sumptuous writing
Gorgeous, witty writing and some incredibly sexy scenes. Quite a pleasure to read overall. Will definitely explore Hollinghurst's other works.
Published 11 months ago by Mark Cohen
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