Alec's Reviews > The Swimming-Pool Library

The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
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's review
Oct 22, 11

bookshelves: reviewed
Read from October 16 to 21, 2011

This is more or less how I want books to be written - this elegance of sentence that always manages to flow magnificently while delivering detail you don't need but definitely want. And it's not just descriptive - it can switch around and give you crudity, and witty dialogue, and vicious judgements, as well as just telling you what the scenery's like.

Brilliant narrative authority and sense of reality, and wonderful that it rejects an obvious coming of age structure. That rather than trying to show a way into a society it shows you a society. This is how this character lives. Wonderful parallels between the present and Charles's diaries and recollections - throws in social criticism with admirable subtlety.

Having said that, I think it lacks the social depth of, say, The Line of Beauty. This one is very much a novel of gay life, and it achieves that partly by obscuring all else. This is brilliant at placing the narrator within that society, at bringing life to a culture that's too often ignored, but it become a little monolithic - this is all that's shown. Which is partly characterisation, but which makes this narrator less interesting than Nick from LoB.

Plot comes panting in at the back of the pack, but there's a bit in there, enough to throw in a few smiles at unexpected happenings. It's clearly the weak point, for it hops around a bit, sometimes darting towards melodrama, then diving away from that as if in shame. If it had stuck with one approach all the way it would have been stronger.

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Reading Progress

10/17/2011 page 60
17.0% "He really is just very good, isn't he? So detailed and elegant and witty. Not as polished as The Line of Beauty so far, but very good nonetheless."
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