The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
What a magnificent novel; I’m absolutely delighted. I could say that this is one of the best novels I’ve read recently and once again Booker Prize Winner has justified its fame.
On the other hand this novel is one of the strangest novels I’ve read recently. Friend asked me could I recommend him this book and what is all about and I couldn’t reply. First I don’t have a clue who’ll accept it in the way I did and the answer on the second question is confusing (for myself too) because what is all about indeed? For the first time (as I remember) the theme, the story was irrelevant. And I do realize how that could sound odd when this refers to one book.
I mean when you write the book you are writing about something concrete, no? Well, here I’m not sure in that. Here, the way of telling story was so bewitching, so beautiful that it made the story itself almost irrelevant. Sentences were so … I don’t know … liquid; I had the feeling that I don’t read but drink this book. Lovely! Those metaphors, irony, humor, deliciousness, elegance, etc. everything is justifying the title. The Line of Beauty indeed!
This is second Hollinghurst’s novel I’ve read; first one was The Swimming-Pool Library and I liked this one much more. I don’t know maybe I’m little puritan although I never thought about myself in that way 🙂
Here I’ll write little anecdote about those two books. Namely when The Line of Beauty won Booker Prize in magazine “Vreme” (Serbian “Time”) on the cultural pages was title “Gay novel won Booker” and I thought “oh that could be something new and interesting” (since I’m absolutely hooked on Booker). At the end of that article was web address from where they took this article. I forgot address but it was site for gay and lesbians and I went to check what they say about this novel. It was a huge surprise; namely almost everyone were saying how The Line of Beauty is incredibly boring novel but The Swimming-Pool Library is exceptional.
Now when I’ve read both novels I could understand why: in this novel there is no “action” while “Library” is so full of “action” that the pages are becoming sticky. So I’m wondering is this novel “gay novel” at all and what does this mean? Yes, Nick – the main character is gay but hey, I almost didn’t notice that!
Of course the novel tells about SOMETHING (after all my copy has 500 pages) and that something is probably above all, crush of that Jane Austin’s England (ridiculous in its survival ’till present time), traditional, noble, prim and stuffy and some very untraditional (or unconventional) things such are homosexuality, drugs and AIDS which actually can be found everywhere if you scratch that posh surface.
I’m fascinated with that “Elephant in glazier’s shop”–syndrome where everyone are noticing the elephant but no one react, simply because that’s not noble. Equally here, you may be debauchee and completely immoral but everything will be perfectly fine as long as you don’t take wrong fork at the dinner party. Gosh, that would be such a catastrophe! Preserve surface intact is absolute priority!
Also the portraits are magnificent, all of them. They are all members of English aristocracy or those who painted themselves in the colours of English aristocratism (although they usually have too much paint on their faces) and their surrounding (Nick). All of them are pictured so detailed that you could literally see their thoughts and feelings. Therefore I found Nick so close to me. I completely share his affection to art and beauty; his addiction to the people that loves, his hedonism, his humor, his sharp eye and sharp mind. Oh I could easily identify myself with his character (although I’m not gay but hey, love and passion are blind, aren’t they?).