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The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst

The Stranger's Child (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Alan Hollinghurst

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939None9,258 (3.51)1 / 150
Title:The Stranger's Child
Authors:Alan Hollinghurst
Info:Picador USA (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 512 pages
Collections:Read, Your library

Work details

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst (2011)

  1. 00
    Possession by A. S. Byatt (kylenapoli)
    kylenapoli: Gives the reader a similar backstage view of 'what really happened' and how it is misremembered, misrepresented, and otherwise lost to time.

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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
A very clever, entertaining novel, taking us on a lightning tour of twentieth century British literary history in a series of elegant pastiches linked by the changing reputation of a poet killed in the First World War. Possibly just a little bit too full of itself to be really satisfying as a novel - I was left with a sneaking suspicion that it does for the Georgian poets what Possession did for the mid-Victorians - but in between all the textual playfulness it does raise a few serious questions about the nature of memory, evidence and reputation, and about the dubious role of the biographer. ( )
  thorold | Jan 7, 2014 |
This book was disappointing. It really leaves you unsatisfied. It never stays in one place long enough for many of the characters to develop. Instead it circles around suppositions about a dead English poet. Even characters it follows for 60 years remain simple shells of people going about their existences with little more than thoughts of a charismatic poet Lothario. By the end all you want to know is who was right. And you don't find out. It remains a book of people's suppositions and assumptions and really I can read any biography of a real person and get the same but end up with knowledge of a real individual. ( )
  sarahzilkastarke | Nov 20, 2013 |
The opening section of this book was one of the most beautiful pieces of literature I have ever read. The descriptions of the characters' emotions, the nuances of class and privilege, the home and natural setting were all vivid and enticing. But the subsequent sections were very drawn out and implied a much greater mystery and scandal than this reader believes was warranted. Each section started with a completely new point of view - and one only tangentially related to the initial story. Overal, the effect was to demonstrate the hold that history and celebrity have on peers and descendants. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Jun 22, 2013 |
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would at the outset. The opening parts kept me involved in the story of Cecil, a minor poet killed in WW1, & his effect on the lifes of the Sawle family - both George, who has a clandestine gay relationship with Cecil, & his sister Daphne who also has some sort of teenage crush/ relationship with Cecil. Basically, Cecil isn't fussy where he gets it. Cecil's destructive effect on the Sawle family is used to hang the plot through the 5 parts of the book & a whole host of characters who become interested in Cecil as a poet and closet gay. The book takes us from the early to late part of the 20th Century & charts the change in social attitudes and law with regard to homosexuality. The problem is that none of the characters who inhabit this book are particularly appealing and it was hard to understand why anyone would be that interested in Cecil and what he got up to with all and sundry. Promiscuous poets are hardly anything new. So while there is some great writing, it left me thinking 'so'? Guess I'm also a bit bored with reading about the upper middle classes & their country houses in Edwardian England that do little to critique the social relations of the day... ( )
  sianpr | May 29, 2013 |
Started and finished this book in less than a weekend--it's been a long time since I've lost myself in a book that way, and it was a great pleasure.
Those who liked Atonement I think will also like this; TSC is reminiscent of Atonement in both its period sweep (taking place in the same era, TSC also spans almost the whole 20th century) and its coming-of-age and discovery of sexual secrets, including the evocation of adolescent fervor and self-centered naiveté. I loved Atonement myself, but I would say TSC is possibly even better, in that it has all the elements of a brilliantly evoked story, well drawn characters and the historical novel aspect that British writers so excell at, BUT without Ian McEwan's knowing, ironic cleverness (I can understand why some readers don't take to McEwan) which is why I think people who did NOT like Atonement would also like this book.
It's also nice to see a sympathetic central character who is a woman, and a book that's so broadly good while still sharing with other AH novels his preoccupations with sexuality and gay politics, written, as always with AH, skillfully and beautifully. I hate when books are labeled "gay" or are overtly "political" and simplistic, and I can say that ASC is quite simply an excellent novel.
The only complaint I have reinforces what a good writer AH is: you want more of each of the characters/stories in each time period. Even as you get towards the end of the book, it's always with a bit of surprise and disappointment you realize that you've moved forward yet another 10 or 20 years and have to meet someone new. But, every time, AH manages to get you totally involved with each new person and eager to find their connection to the central characters that you started the book (and the century) with.
Some reviewers have compared this to ASByatt's Possession, which is a stretch--I guess the themes of literary discovery, memory and recording etc--but other than that they're very different. I suppose if you like ASB in general--as a 3rd person, british novelist of "traditional" narrative--you will probably like AH too. I adore ASByatt myself but Possession is my least favorite novel of hers, as it has some of the affected contrivedness of he worst of Ian McEwan, which can be hard to take.

( )
1 vote lxydis | May 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
In The Stranger’s Child he weaves a number of stories around the idea of Brooke and his posthumous fortunes, detailing the lives caught up in the reputational arc of a Brooke-like poet called Cecil Valance between 1913 and 2008. Both world wars, fought offstage, have effects that ramify throughout the novel, as do changing attitudes to gay people and to biographical disclosure. Hollinghurst writes with amused tenderness about Rupert Trunk-type phenomena, investing them with dignity and pathos, but he also puts both hands on opportunities for irony, arch humour and, intermittently, an un-Jamesian directness.
In many ways, The Stranger's Child has the same qualities as his previous novels. It is elegant, seductive and extremely enjoyable to read, and peppered with astute, apparently casual noticings. (Of a man stumbling around in a shed at a party: "He was drunk, it was one of the hilarious uncorrectable disasters of being drunk." Of a grand literary wife: "A hard, good-looking face, thoroughly made up, and a manner he knew at once, from its tight smiles and frowns, of getting people to do things.") It treads much of the same ground as its predecessors: class and money, buried histories of gay life in this country, the dreary provinces and the exciting metropolis, with forays into architecture and Victoriana. As ever, Hollinghurst's set-piece parties are stunning.
added by peterbrown | editThe Guardian, Theo Tait (Jun 18, 2011)
Hollinghurst’s fine new book, “The Stranger’s Child” — the closest thing he has written to an old-fashioned chronicle novel — contains a whole hidden literary curriculum, out of which he has fashioned something fresh and vital. Underpinned with a range of styles that run from Iris Murdoch to William Trevor and back to Forster, the novel is divided into five parts that play out over five different decades.
added by lucyknows | editscis (pay site)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alan Hollinghurstprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Granato, GiovannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heuvelmans, TonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krol, EdzardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lacruz, JavierTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pawlikowska-Gannon, HannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Päkkilä, MarkkuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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IM Mick Imlah 1956-2009
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She'd been lying in the hammock reading poetry for over an hour.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307272761, Hardcover)

From the Man Booker Prize–winning author of The Line of Beauty: a magnificent, century-spanning saga about a love triangle that spawns a myth, and a family mystery, across generations.

In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge schoolmate—a handsome, aristocratic young poet named Cecil Valance—to his family’s modest home outside London for the weekend. George is enthralled by Cecil, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by him and the stories he tells about Corley Court, the country estate he is heir to. But what Cecil writes in Daphne’s autograph album will change their and their families’ lives forever: a poem that, after Cecil is killed in the Great War and his reputation burnished, will become a touchstone for a generation, a work recited by every schoolchild in England. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as other secrets lie buried—until, decades later, an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them.

Rich with Hollinghurst’s signature gifts—haunting sensuality, delicious wit and exquisite lyricism—The Stranger’s Child is a tour de force: a masterly novel about the lingering power of desire, how the heart creates its own history, and how legends are made.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:54 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge schoolmate--a handsome, aristocratic young poet named Cecil Valance--to his family's modest home outside London for the weekend. George is enthralled by Cecil, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by him and the stories he tells about Corley Court, the country estate he is heir to. But what Cecil writes in Daphne's autograph album will change their and their families' lives forever: a poem that, after Cecil is killed in the Great War and his reputation burnished, will become a touchstone for a generation, a work recited by every schoolchild in England. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as other secrets lie buried--until, decades later, an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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