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The Line of Beauty (2004)

by Alan Hollinghurst

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,5791132,475 (3.6)334
20-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens. An innocent in matters of politics and money, he becomes caught up in the Feddins' world: its grand parties, its surprising alliances, its parade of monsters both comic and menacing. In an era of endless possibility, he finds himself able to pursue his own private obssession with beauty--a prize as compelling to him as power and riches are to his friends.… (more)

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» See also 334 mentions

English (106)  Dutch (4)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All languages (112)
Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)
This novel begins in 1983 when middle-class Nick Guest has just graduated from Oxford. He comes down to London and is given a room in the prosperous home of one of his classmates. The father, Gerald Fedden, is a conservative MP, and the mother, Rachel, comes from a wealthy banking family. Nick makes himself useful to the family in one way or another over the next several years. He becomes an inside observer of the workings of the upper classes, the wealthy and the politically connected during the Thatcher years. As an observer, Nick basically remains an outsider (though he doesn't always recognize this himself), and never really becomes a full participant in the goings-on. And since Nick is gay, the book is also the story of gay life in London during the onset of the AIDS epidemic.

The novel is divided into three parts. The first part takes place in 1983 when Nick has just come down to London and has his first love affair with Leo, a young but more experienced civil servant. The second part takes place in 1986 when Nick is both working for and having an affair with Wani, a former Oxford classmate. In the last part, in 1987, AIDS is ravaging Nick's social group, and disasters of other sorts are befalling one after another of the other characters.

Hollinghurst writes beautifully, and I was always fully engaged in this book. The book is full of insightful and perceptive observations about the time, the place, culture, and the society in which these characters move. (One reviewer compared the book and its social observations to Proust). The book serves both as a very personal story of one man and his friends, and as a political and societal history of the Thatcher years. I highly recommend it.

4 1/2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Aug 16, 2023 |
I read this at the suggestion of Mark for a group read this month. It wasn't so much a group read, as a parallel read. I'm glad for the nudge. Set in Thatcher's England, and follows a young gay man living his life in two worlds, the LGBT community and the upper crust political world of the family he lives with. I naively, totally forgot that this was set in the 80s and should have realized that AIDS would play a picture in the story and when it reared its ugly head, I was caught off guard. An award winning book that is well worth the time. For the group, if you're keeping track, at just over 500 pages, I'm adding it to the 75 Chunksters list.

Some quotes...
The strange, the marvelous thing was that at no point did Gerald say what he considered Nick actually to have done. It seemed as natural as day to him to dress up the pet lamb as the scapegoat.

"These champagne flutes are simply enormous!" she said. "I know, they're sort of champagne tubas, aren't they," said Nick

She noticed nothing, and yet she remembered everything ( )
  mahsdad | Jun 30, 2023 |
“The pursuit of love seemed to need the cultivation of indifference.”

It is 1983, London. The Thatcher years. Nick Guest is a twenty year old gay man living in an attic bedroom of the Feddens, a wealthy influential family. Gerald Fedden is a Member of Parliament. Nick and their son Toby were friends at Oxford. Nick comes from a more modest background, but is smart and cultured and fits in well with this top-tier family. As the narrative moves through the 80s, cracks begin to appear in and scandals are looming, threatening to break this family apart and Nick finds himself in the middle of it.
This was my introduction to Hollinghurst and this Booker Prize-winning ended up being the perfect place to start. The writing is excellent and so is the story-tellling. This does deal with gay culture in the 1980s, which of course includes the AIDs crisis. It makes the perfect companion piece to The Great Believers. Highly recommended. ( )
  msf59 | Jun 15, 2023 |
In the tradition of Anthony Powell, I think, and Evelyn Waugh. Part two is very funny, the ending melancholy. The best of his books I’ve yet read. The prose is nearly perfect, and the plot quite absorbing. His insights and figurative language are impressive throughout. One of those books that I was sorry to finish . ( )
  gtross | Apr 26, 2023 |
I might lower my rating later, but it seemed impossible to give only 3.5 considering the prose, the subtlety of the story telling, and the generosity extended to the the unlikely social class and that protagonist finds himself swept up by. At a certain point I realized that I was completely uninterested in the "plot" of the novel, and was a little disappointed that it was crammed into the end of the book, though I think the ending was ultimately a good decision. I think there were some pacing problems and I got a little lost in certain places- wait, are we still in France?! Total fluke that I read this in June and I really had no idea what the book was about, it was just mentioned in an interview of an author I really like. I mentioned to a friend that I was reading it, and she said that it's her favorite book! ( )
  squarishoval | Jun 28, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)
But the plot isn’t the point. This novel’s pleasures are thick and deep, growing out of the brilliant observational powers of the main character.

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alan Hollinghurstprimary authorall editionscalculated
Heuvelmans, TonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KjellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stegers, ThomasÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
'What do you know about this business?' the King said to Alice. 'Nothing', said Alice. 'Nothing whatever?', persisted the King. 'Nothing whatever', said Alice. 'That's very important', the King said, turning to the jury. They were just beginning to write down on their slates, when the White Rabbit interrupted: 'Unimportant, your Majesty means, of course', he said in a very respectful tone, but frowning and making faces at him as he spoke. 'Unimportant, of course, I meant', the King hastily said, and went on to himself in an undertone, 'important - unimportant - unimporant - important -' as if he were trying which word sounded best. - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, chapter 12
For Francis Wyndham
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Peter Crowther's book on the election was already in the shops.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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ISBN 1582346100 is for The Line of Beauty NOT Invincible: The Ultimate Collection Volume 3: The Ultimate Collection.
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Wikipedia in English


20-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens. An innocent in matters of politics and money, he becomes caught up in the Feddins' world: its grand parties, its surprising alliances, its parade of monsters both comic and menacing. In an era of endless possibility, he finds himself able to pursue his own private obssession with beauty--a prize as compelling to him as power and riches are to his friends.

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Haiku summary
Jolly good chums yes!// Well, that's what they all believed// The stakes were too high

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