Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst (2011)

I feel barely smart enough to read this book at all, let alone comment on it publicly.  I wasn't totally sure what the hell was going on at any given moment, but I still wanted to keep going because I was intrigued.  I kept half expecting someone to die or be outed or be caught having gay sex in the woods... none of which actually happened.

I thought it was telling that the two main characters at the beginning were called "Cecil" and "George" - the yin and the yang for Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With A View because the book occasionally felt very much like what E.M. Forster might write in 2012, if he were around to write.  The Mitfords made occasional appearances as well, although in very, very muted form (no discernible fascists) - perhaps I should say "Tom Mitford" was a stronger presence, his more famous sisters less so.  A Goodreads Friend also compared this to Atonement, but I will have to take his word for that, as I haven't read Atonement.  He turned me on to Vita Sackville-West, and I can certainly see her influence, so probably Virginia Woolf was floating over the whole damn book as well.  And any closeted gay English writer and/or poet from about 1880 - 1967.

I'm almost scared to read anything about this book, any reviews or criticism, because I'm going to have missed just about everything of importance in the book and feel like a complete idiot.

The Stranger's Child The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel barely smart enough to read this book let alone comment publicly on it.  I know that I thought it was fascinating and I kept on reading because I wanted to know what was going to happen next, and sometimes didn't know what the hell was even going on.  The characters are all, for the most part - not quite reprehensible - but unlikable.  No heroes or heroines here.  It was telling for me that the first two characters you meet on a golden afternoon in the nouveau riche suburbs of Edwardian London are named George and Cecil - the yin and yang to Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With A View.  The entire book tasted of Forster, only a Forster alive and well and writing in the 21st century.  The Mitfords were there as well, at least Tom Mitford, the less famous brother (the sisters are in the book as well, only muted). Downtown Abbey is a way down the road though; this isn't a soap opera.  It's a solidly good book.

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