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The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan…

The Swimming-Pool Library

by Alan Hollinghurst

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Pleasurable but also unsettling and disturbing. By the end I was mostly baffled, but the more I think about it, the richer the whole thing seems, and the more I think I might love it.

http://donutgirl.livejournal.com/667003.html ( )
  amydross | Jun 12, 2015 |
I found this book a little disjointed. Given that it really is a slice of life, of a young man who leads a disjointed life, it's hardly surprising, but I found asking myself: where is this going? Whatever happened to that character or this one? I suppose in a life of promiscuity and flightiness, it makes sense and give a true colour of a certain lifestyle - certainly I liked the raw and cruel writing.
There are some thing I thoroughly enjoyed, however: the numerous descriptions of architecture that permeated through the book and gave it an eerie and dissolute sensation, from Charles's basement and club to the pool and cinema - these intense and mysterious spaces lend fabulous depth to the novel. Then, of course, was the unexpected twist and subsequent reflection which veered the novel to a new awareness.
A unique and surprising read. ( )
  Cecilturtle | Feb 9, 2013 |
In his incredible first novel, Booker Prize-winner Alan Holinghurst explores the revelatory days of the early 1980s in England, when anti-gay sentiment was beginning its decline and AIDS had yet to cross the pond. His narrator, Will Beckwith, is young, beautiful, rich, titled, indolent and hedonistic. Will’s arch voice describes days of almost impossible indulgence. He leaves his luxurious flat only to pursue other beautiful young men across the city, on buses and in parks and at the swimming pool of The Corry, his beloved local fitness club. When he saves the life of the elderly Lord Charles Nantwich, he falls into the older man’s inner circle and slowly uncovers his incredible past, and the unexpected parallels between their histories, through decades-old diaries and whispers.

I don’t know how it is possible to write about so much sex, in such length and detail, as Hollinghurst does, without ever making it feel gratuitous or prurient to the reader. It helps that he is a truly brilliant stylist: his sentences are gorgeous right down to the structural level, not only inviting you to linger on each one, but insisting on such a close reading. More to the point, while the novel is unabashedly sexual, sex is not so much the subject as the medium: Hollinghurst uses each encounter to further an almost anthropological exploration of the gay subtext of English culture and empire in the 20th century. For a book that could be mistaken for smut, it’s a grandly ambitious project and a breathtaking success. ( )
1 vote circumspice | Jul 25, 2012 |
The year is 1983, Will Beckwith is twenty-five years old, a gay aristocrat public school and Oxford educated, and living a life of leisure and pleasure, not needing to work thanks to the substantial wealth gifted by his notable grandfather, Lord Beckwith. Will tells of his unexpected encounter with the gay eighty-three year old Lord Nantwich who subsequently requests that Will should write his biography based on the abundant diaries he has kept over his eventful life. As Will reads through Lord Nantwich's diaries we learn his Lordships colourful past and at the same time Will keeps us informed of his own activities.

Will's life centres on his regular visits the the Corinthian where his enjoys swimming, and even more lingering in the showers admiring and being admired, and he devotes his time to pursing beautiful teenage boys, especially those of colour. His fondness for coloured boys is something he shares with Lord Nantwich whose early diplomatic career took him to Africa.

The plot is fascinating as we learn of Nantwich's past, how it connects with Will; of Will's promiscuous life and his love affairs; of his Will's best friend James and his less successful affairs of the heart; and the various virtually exclusively gay gay men and handsome boys who people the story. It is a candid account, frequently but unsensationally erotic, which makes it all the more shocking.

But what makes The Swimming Pool Library an exceptional book is the sheer quality of the writing, beautiful, shimmering proses of great eloquence, drawing the reader into the enveloping atmosphere of its wholly gay world such that one is happy to be absorbed and seduced by the lives of its participants. It is one of those rare novels that one hopes will never end.

Off course it is possible to find fault, it could be said there is a certain shallowness to some of the characters. Hollinghurst has a fondness for using the occasionally slightly obscure word, I have no problem with this except when the chosen word is quite simply an ugly word which jars with the overall beauty of his writing. But this criticisms are minor within the overall scheme, for this is an outstanding work, a fascinating story, combining mystery and love, funny, sexy, humanly honest, historically enlightening, often subtle in its detail, tender yet decadent; summed up it is one of the best gay novels I have read, and one I must read again for I am sure that it contains much more than I found in one reading. ( )
  Bembo | Nov 19, 2011 |
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Book description
Alan Hollinghurst's first novel is a tour de force: a darkly erotic work that centres on the friendship of William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, who is searching for someone to write his biography
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679722564, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:02 -0400)

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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.

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