Ed's Reviews > The Stranger's Child

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
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Jan 22, 15

bookshelves: 2012, 4-stars, historical-fiction, read-on-kindle, tournament-of-books-2012, glbt
Read from February 17 to March 02, 2012

In a world becoming ever increasingly A.D.D., a novel like Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child takes some patience... or at least it did for me. I read this as part of the 2012 Tournament of Books (implied literary quality and/or acclaim) as well as my own positive past experience with Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty several years ago (granted with a moderate case reader amnesia, i.e. "I don't remember what it was about, but it was good").

The early parts of the novel have a very British PBS-y period-piece feel about it. It's all very stuffy and stodgy, which will appeal to a lot of folks, but it took some effort for me to plow through it. While I never considered abandoning it, it just felt like it was going to be a slog. Fortunately, at about the midway point (a good couple of hundred pages in), my "wall" with it crumbled and the book started to hit its stride. It became clear that Hollinghurst was building a quite sturdy foundation, creating a from-scratch history, that ends up being a pretty impressive achievement.

Apart from the overall patience required (which ultimately was a good thing) and the occasional flagging attention span, my only other quibble was the disproportionate amount of "naturally occurring in nature" homosexuality/bi-sexuality in the book. Believe me, I am open-minded as they come, but it just got to the point where one would not even consider that a male character in the book was heterosexual. While I know Hollinghurst is known for his LGBT works, in this particular book, this alternate-universe was jolting enough to be a distraction (tho one got used to it after awhile!).

This is a book about how history is chronicled and how memories are made and re-made. The book may lack the clarity and closure that some readers desire, but it all felt real and delightfully unreliable as our own "real world" lives and memories.

A literary effort -- that takes some effort -- but was worth it.
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Jamie Bradway Ed, you got so much more out of it than I did! I was floundering to find a point to the book and you found one. I couldn't dredge up any particular antipathy toward the Stranger's Child, but I'm guessing I forget everything about it in a month - not something I normally say of Tournament of Books competitors.


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