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The Line of Beauty

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  15,074 ratings  ·  903 reviews
In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: conservative Member of Parliament Gerald, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their two children, Toby-whom Nick had idolized at Oxford-and Catherine, highly critical of her family's assumptions and ambitions.

As the boom years of the eighties unfold, Nick, an innoc
Paperback, 438 pages
Published 2004 by Bloomsbury
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Booker Prize Winners
15th out of 50 books — 1,508 voters
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Best Gay Fiction
15th out of 1,268 books — 1,549 voters

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Community Reviews

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Oct 08, 2009 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like old-timey british novels about rich people, but want more gay sex
Recommended to Jessica by: my ex-professor who i amazon-stalk; eric-with-the-drink
I started this last night, heading home after one of the most dreadful evenings in recent memory.

So lately my life does seem like a pot of thick, scalding acrid coffee; I read books in the hope that they'll help me choke it down. But for some reason everything I pick up lately's been unsatisfying, like skim milk or soy. It might take the edge off, but not nicely, and with some of this stuff I think I might be better off drinking the coffee black. That Martin Amis is like some synthetic creamer,
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 25, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2008-2010)
Alan Hollinghurst’s prose is simply beautiful. His words make made me breathless even if his milieu is something that I am not very familiar with: London in the eighties. His prose is so beautiful that I felt that I would never be able to write a novel myself. Hollinghurst is like a god in the Olympus and I am just a mortal slave and I am not even worthy to kiss the ground he steps on. It is so beautiful, I felt like putting it at the altar stare at pray that it would inspire me to continue writ ...more
Apr 12, 2014 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: lgbt
3.5 stars rounded up
Booker prize winner in 2004, Hollinghurst writes about the 1980s and more particularly about Thatcher’s Britain and the onset of HIV/AIDS. It is the story of Nick Guest, a young gay man from a middle class background. He meets the son (Toby) of a rising Tory MP (Gerald Fedden) at Oxford and after graduating moves in with Toby’s family as a lodger.
The backdrop is London of the 1980s. Nick moves in glamorous circles and the line of beauty goes back to Hogarth’s s shaped curve i
An unusually powerful and deserving winner of the Man Book Prize, this is one of the few books that took me over a year to read, not because it was ever boring or sluggish, but because each sentence was so beautiful, I wanted to give every passage its due attention. I rarely say such things about books, so Hollinghurst must be a magician or a hypnotist. As it took me so long to read, I spent an embarrassing amount of time repeating to people who asked me what I was reading that it was Line of Be ...more
Be Forewarned. This well-written society critique and winner of the 2004 Man Booker prize will bore the pants off you unless you are deeply interested in class struggle, gayness, politics, ethnicity, and AIDs, (the intersection of) in England in the mid-to-late 80s. Oh, and antiques. Talk about a niche!

It was one of two books I brought on my 20 hour flight to Singapore, where I was planning on enjoying, at long last, some time to myself to read. About 50 pages into it, my mind cried, "Noooooo" a
The gay Great Gatsby in Thacher's England. Also, the best book I've read in years.
Hollinghurst's gay protagonist, Nick Guest, more or less ingenuously follows his sexual and aesthetic inclinations, which lead him, somewhat incongruously, into the house of Tory MP Gerald Fedden, the arms of a Lebanese millionaire's son, and finally personal disaster and tragedy.

The thin thread that binds and shapes Nick's muddling way through his life is beauty, and his trajectory is in a way a test of its strength and worth. Hollinghurst holds up for us the thinness of beauty and the foolish
Occasionally I pick up a book that is so good I purposefully read it slowly or even set it down for a while about halfway through because I want to relish its reality longer, and because completing a book, no matter how many times I might re-read it in the future, marks a terminus you can’t ever get back, and exceptional books are the sort of terminuses you shouldn't cross lightly!

The Line of Beauty was one of those books. This is truly a masterpiece, artfully written, psychologically rich and
Finally finished... the plot started to pick up -or rather, the author found the plot- in the last third of the book or so, but that was 300+ pages in. Painful.

The writing was supposed to by lyrical and graceful, but it was just long-winded and poorly executed. For beautiful prose, this book tries but does not hit the mark. The author needed a better editor, one who loves the delete key. It may be because I have been reading this book sporadically over the past year or more, but at the end of t
2004. Another Booker Prize Winner I liked but couldn't love. Another year when the winner was less impressive than those it beat. And now it is 2011 and Alan Hollinghurst's new book The Stranger's Child has been long listed for this year's prize and already he's the bookmakers' pick to win.

He probably will, and maybe this time he'll deserve it.

That's not fair of me, though. It's not like The Line of Beauty was a bad book. I enjoyed it well enough. The characters were engaging (I especially liked
I enjoyed this enormously. Hollinghurst is a great stylist and his debt to Henry James, suggested throughout (the protagonist is writing a thesis on 'The Master'), is always evident. Best of all is his subtle but uncompromising social satire: few of the characteres are particularly sympathetic but all are energetically realised and very believable. There are some terrific set-pieces: an aristocratic twenty-first birthday, awkward introductions of gay lovers to parents who don't know (or won't ad ...more
I'd been meaning to look into Hollinghurst for years, ever since I read a rave review of The Swimming Pool Library ... by a writer whose opinion I respected but whom I can't remember now. Martin Amis, maybe? I want to say John Updike, but given the controversy over his New Yorker review of Hollinghurst's later The Spell , I'm not sure I could handle the irony.

In any case, I always look for Swimming Pool Library in book stores, but they never seem to carry it. So finally I got this instead, to
The Line of Beauty
—is an elegant portrait of the rise and fall of a recent Oxford graduate playing at being privileged.
—is a coming out story of said grad who does not quite come of age.
—is a British period piece during the Thatcher reign.
—is an exposé of useless pedantry
—shows that a social class, by any name, is a social class
—is reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh in prose and mood

I read this after seeing the movie, so had pictures in my mind of the characters. It did not ruin the book for me. I lo
The preemptive assumption of this novel is that Nick is an innocent in the ways of the world--in regards to politics, finance, and romance. The author sets up this character to be seemingly sterotypically innocent describing that everything in life comes to him as a shock. Throughout the book you see that, although Nick is innocent to the "evils" that lurk behind the corporate power structure and elite of society, and never quite knows the proper thing to say, neither does anyone else. The dialo ...more
Apr 27, 2007 Dustin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: young homos and the people that love them
It's been a while (and by a while, I don't mean a certain number of months, but a certain number of a certain kind of months) since I read this book. But I wanted to say at least this:

The Line of Beauty contains some of the most beautiful passages in fiction I've read in, well, my life. The book is rich, thick and overflowing. Meanwhile things come across well-placed, timed, pertinent.

It's gay fiction for gays who love reading (and not just for gays who love reading about gays, which is fine, bu
Excellent in every respect. Reading this, I often felt to be in masterly hands: Hollinghurst has that completeness of play, that perfect union of the dramatic and the psychological. He does the scenic work of artfully describing characters' interplay of gestures and tones and tics, but is just as adept amidst the impalpables of sensibility, where the motives for their gestures and tones and tics are found to lie. Hollinghurst has superb senses for texture, heft, sound, movement. The old James ad ...more


(HOLLYWOOD, Nov 25, 2007)

Academy Award winning producer Alan Ball announced today that he has reunited most of the cast of Six Feet Under for an HBO production of the award-winning English novel, "The Line of Beauty."

The 12 episode mini-series will tell the story of Nick Guest ("David Fisher"), a young homosexual who has managed to con his way into the hearts and minds of the conservative Fedden clan -- ambiti
I'm mixed on this one. The characters are beautifully crafted, the era (1980s London) is brilliantly captured and the story well told-with a twist that changes the languid to the anguished. It was all very Henry James and I mean that with the greatest respect.

I think what I struggled with is the utter depravity and despicability of these people- the pointlessness of their privileged, selfish lives. The sex wasn't shocking but it did get tiresome- I'd rather have learned more about the families.
The double curve was Hogarth’s ‘line of beauty’, the snakelike flicker of an instinct, of two compulsions held in one unfolding movement. - Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty.

Alan Hollinghurst’s fourth novel, The Line of Beauty, was the surprise winner of the 2004 Booker Prize, beating out such lofty competition as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Hollinghurst’s books are usually set in an England of the recent past, and feature gay male main characters. His novels explore the interconnectednes
Is it the particularity of things or their congruence with the universal that reveals their beauty?

Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty briefly calls into question for me whether being a heterosexual female is that great, once compared to the heady intimacy enjoyed by men who love men and the even their particular burdens. This is not an especially lurid book overall, but its sex scenes are minutely detailed and veer between the erotic and the unsettling. The way Nick Guest, our protagonist, assess
Justin Evans
A beautifully written, ironic novel in the tradition of Forster and Waugh? Sign me up. Then imagine that they didn't have repressed/symbolic sex scenes ('we lay next to each other naked on towels, sunbathing' is replaced by 'then i slid my hand between his buttocks and fondled his balls'). I'm still on board. Cutting social satire as well? Lovely. Two things stop this being five-star worthy though: first, the joy I took in the first half at this not being an AIDS novels was dulled when it, well, ...more
This was a thought-provoking, haunting read that has stayed with me quite lucidly since I finished it. The narrative is so powerful that I was able to picture much of the story as clearly as if I had actually witnessed it all taking place, and several of the more disturbing scenes were so real to me that they stuck in my head in graphic detail, as if they were horribly memorable scenes from a film, for days afterwards. I loved the innovative, inspiring description (a favourite line: 'Sally Tippe ...more
I had heard great things about this book, so it was disappointing that I simply could not get into it. Hollinghurst’s prose is fluid and lovely, and there are certainly many moments that seem very authentic. Not a lot happened, but that's not a major issue for me if I get invested in a novel's characters. But characterization was the weak spot here. Hollinghurst maintains an evasive kind of distance from the (affected, largely shallow) characters that kept me from caring for them. The only chara ...more
All that sex is, frankly, exhausting and never quite satisfying to either character or reader.
Robert Dunbar

Frustrated by his first brush with romance, Nick Guest feels he’s been “swept to the brink of some new promise.” The moment is profoundly poignant.

Though The Line of Beauty runs through a period scarcely more than twenty years in the past, time already seems to have rendered Margaret Thatcher’s England as misty and distant as something out of Brideshead Revisited. Could the world really have changed this much so quickly? That misty quality is deceptive. In this penetrating and mature work, Alan
Ryan Stone
I think I'm at a point in my life where I have no idea what to read, or what my "genre" is, cause I haven't read a great book since "Feast for Crows," but I wouldn't call myself a fan of fantasy (a FANtasy, get it?). Aside from that, it's been really hit or miss. So when I read in GQ that one of the best books of the aughts was "The Line of Beauty" by Allan Hollinghurst, he who wrote the marvellous "Swimming-Pool Library," I was doubly intrigued.
So it comes as a bit of a bummer that "The Line of
The problem with criticising a book for what it fails to be is that you are no longer reviewing the book you've read but one you wanted to read. Nonetheless, there's a problem with The Line of Beauty: it's essentially a morality tale, in which Nick (Guest by name, guest by nature, yah?) slowly learns a hard lesson about the rich, namely if you’re not one of them, basically you're just one of the staff. But the problem is, we have hundreds of pages of Nick's superficial self-delusion as he flies ...more
I believe I might have read this when it first came out (or maybe I am remembering the BBC adaptation), but if anything, the decade since its publication has only enriched the experience even more. A 'Brideshead Revisited' for the Thatcher era, it contains some of the most exquisite prose in a modern book. Having been more than a little disappointed in the most recent Booker Prize recipients, it is nice to read something truly worthy of that honor. I am going to have to go back and read Hollings ...more
Couldn't get into this one at all -- maybe it's the diet of pulpy SF I've been on, but I just couldn't find anything to hook me in. The social class stuff frankly bores me, and what I'd forgive in a literary classic I couldn't get on with it here. I read a chapter, put the book down to watch Captain America (my new weakness: Marvel superheroes, or at least those played by Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner and Robert Downey Junior) and couldn't even remember where I'd go ...more
Krishna Venkitachalam
I can't believe that English prose could be written so beautifully and effortlessly, while exploring serious societal issues and complex human emotions.
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21st Century Lite...: The End of the Street--1987 6 18 Jun 14, 2015 12:16PM  
21st Century Lite...: Line of Beauty - whole book, Spoilers welcome 12 20 Jun 13, 2015 11:09PM  
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21st Century Lite...: Line of Beauty (Whole Book--no spoilers) 9 19 Jun 05, 2015 05:58PM  
Book Drum profile of The Line of Beauty 2 29 Mar 09, 2014 03:34PM  
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Alan Hollinghurst is an English novelist, and winner of the 2004 Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty.

He read English at Magdalen College, Oxford graduating in 1975; and subsequently took the further degree of Master of Literature (1979). While at Oxford he shared a house with Andrew Motion, and was awarded the Newdigate Prize for poetry in 1974, the year before Motion.

In the late 1970s he became a
More about Alan Hollinghurst...

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“He wanted pure compliments, just as he wanted unconditional love.” 18 likes
“The worse they are the more they see beauty in each other.” 18 likes
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