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The Stranger's Child

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  9,317 Ratings  ·  1,260 Reviews
From the Man Booker Prize–winning author of The Line of Beauty: a magnificent, century-spanning saga about a love triangle that spawns a myth, and a family mystery, across generations.

In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge schoolmate—a handsome, aristocratic young poet named Cecil Valance—to his family’s modest home outside London for the weekend. G
Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published (first published June 27th 2011)
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This tells a riveting and complex saga with profound insight, plenty of intrigue and dashes of wit. From the first dozen pages, even the first few sentences, I was drawn into a love affair with the writing of this book. I read large chunks more than once because the writing is breathtaking, but leisurely: I wanted to capture the craft and jot down many quotes (see the end of this for a long selection).

Having finished, I still love it, even though the quality was not quite maintained. It is a st
Paul Bryant
May 23, 2012 marked it as to-not-read-ever  ·  review of another edition


- Associated Press, 23 May 2012

"I am appalled," says Goodreads reviewer Paul Bryant, speaking at his pleasant Nottingham home earlier today. "Friends had told me of this but I had brushed it aside as a matter below my concern. But then I stumbled upon an article in the Guardian and after reading that the bottom just fell out of my world. I will have to sue Alan Hollinghurst for damages now."

The article in question, entitled "The Booker can Driv
May 04, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, fiction, 21-ce, signed
Hollinghurst is fifty and he's still writing about boys and their capacity for stratospheric ejaculation. Snoresville.
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a perverse delectation of delay I waited until the US release of The Stranger’s Child. In spells of impatience I would Google the UK reviews, and read them in a skimming, self-protective way, veering from spoilers, and keeping mostly to the opening and closing paragraphs of generalized acclaim. From review to review the memes were Brideshead Revisited (there’s an estate), Atonement (there’s a naïve young girl), and the extent of the novel’s ambition. I can say nothing about the alleged Waugh ...more
Mike Keirsbilck
May 01, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: r-52-books
Last week I read Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child. And boy, what an ordeal this has been. The whole novel just didn't appeal to me. It started out as some sort of Wuthering Heights spin-off, but with a gay twist to it. One of the lovers heroically dies in war, and becomes a well-known poet. The rest of the story is more or less a quest of remembering the dead poet. Throughout the twentieth century people start to take an interest in the poet, and even a biography is being set up. The rel ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Booker Longlisted 2011
Reading The Stranger's Child is like visiting a multi-leveled beautiful museum with each level dedicated to showcase a certain period in a nation's history.

Oh I still remember the delight and mixed feelings that I had when I visited the Auckland Museum in 2002. The ground floor houses the Maori and early settlers' artifacts, plants and faunas exclusively found in New Zealand. The second floor houses the WWI (where the NZ government sent delegations to Europe) and the different battles around th
"We can find you anything you want."
"Mm, I may well have to call on you."
"Now that all information is retrievable..."
"Quite a thought, isn't it?"

Indeed, quite a thought. A fallacy that we are prey to in our age of internet and permanent access to all that it provides. This delightful, elegant, lush tale proves how shaky that ground is. The 'hard' facts - what an image! - of a person's life. They can never be retrieved. Memories are re-written, fudged, distorted or simply lost, evidence remains h
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.....both delicious and grand....this book has enough material for a literary trilogy...a wonderful literary romp through time....this book has it all- poetry, architecture, bisexual trysts, intrigue, clever dialogue and a story that is both playful and of my favorite novels of all time is A.S. Byatt's Possession and this book reads very much like that one but only with a more queer bent....
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

It's taken me a long time to get around to reading a Hollinghurst novel and I wish I'd done so sooner. His writing is a revelation: great characterisation, a wonderful evocation of time and place and beautiful, beautiful prose. One of the things I particularly love about this novel - which is in five sections, each set in a different year from 1913 to 2008 - is the way in which Hollingurst plunges the reader into each part of the narrative. I also love seeing the central character, Daphne Sawle,
Michele Weiner
Nov 09, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review may contain more information about the plot than you want to know.

The Times Literary Supplement called Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child "a master class in the art of the novel." The Independent said "It is a rare thing to read a novel buoyed up by the certainty that it will stand among the year's best, but rarer still to become confident of its value in decades to come." What? There must be some mistake. Maybe I'm not British enough to get the point.

This is the story of Cec
Jun 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of McEwan
This book rescued me. For that I am eternally grateful. It rescued me from lapsing into a boredom induced coma while sitting in a hilux in a field in the middle of the Cheshire countryside. What was I doing sitting in a field in such an environmentally unfriendly vehicle? (Hey don't diss the hilux, that car is my baby)

I was sitting in a field waiting for a bunch of builders to turn up and dig some holes.... but they were at least two hours late every day. Now just because this book rescued me d
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The two stars here rates my enjoyment level of this book rather than my valuation of the writing, which I'd give a four, and Hollinghurst's perceptive understandings of human foible and social identity. I'd give those a six. I perfectly understand the prize nominations and love of his work expressed widely on this site, but at the same time I was underwhelmed by the novel as a whole.

As a resume of a certain kind of middle class British repression centred on the theme of male homosexuality, grad
Oh dear God.
It's like Alan Hollinghurst crawled inside my brain, extracted key elements from my What Jackie Looks For In Fiction And In Life file, mixed them up with his own special ingredients, ran it all through a food processor, and voila!
Seriously. There have been moments in my life when I've thought of writing a Bloomsbury pastiche because I love that whole World-War-One-is-looming-so-let's-have-tea era. But now I never will, because here it is, and it's so much more than that. This book is
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It kills me to give two stars to a book that took me the better part of a week to read, that has all the trappings of a book I would enjoy, and that will probably go on to win a mantel of literary awards. But, at the end of the 564 pages, I feel let down by weak story telling carefully hidden by lyrical writing, beautiful settings and a probing look at changes in British society over the last century.

Fans of the book have alluded to the author's ability to present readers with the subtlety of h
Feb 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I was quick to deliver a three-star rating to this novel, I could consider dropping another star. Perhaps my biggest issue with this novel is that I did enjoy it...when Forster wrote it nearly a century ago in "Maurice" and then when Waugh wrote it in "Brideshead". I've always been hesitant of contemporary literature for this exact reason: it's too derivative. Much of the turn-of-the-century English literature aesthetic over saturates this novel, and while I do very much enjoy that setting ...more
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
In fastidious - if occasionally fussy - prose Hollinghurst has fashioned his own kind of family saga - part Evelyn Waugh, part EM Forster, part Mary Wesley. Once again his writing exhibits all the heightened sensory awareness and self-conscious eroticism of an extended seduction. There is the perhaps inevitable comparison with Atonement, Ian McEwan's postmodern carbuncle - with all its internal workings hanging out like some Richard Rogers monstrosity - but this is much more a Palladian folly of ...more
The only other Alan Hollinghurst book I've read is the beautiful but disturbing Booker Prize winner The Line of Beauty, which, from what I can gather, is typical of his work. The Stranger's Child, then, is a departure: while homosexuality and gay relationships are a strong theme throughout the book, it is a family saga spanning almost a hundred years - stretching from the eve of the First World War to the present day - and is the first Hollinghurst novel to feature major female characters. Divid ...more
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wish I'd been a stranger to buying this...

This is one of our finest writers. He has an ability to present prose and observation with such elegance and deserves his place on the shelves.

Not with this one, though.

This starts out so well...the idea of a WW1 poet is engaging and the place and time and the characters draw you in and it's wonderful...and then you see you're 18% through and you think...what? More? The book then rambles on and I turned over page after page of prose that could have been
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Hollinghurst's writing is so precise. In every phrase he finds the perfect word. Yet the precision is in service to his storytelling and never overwhelms it. His specialty is human motivations and he seems to live inside each character equally, whether they are male, female, old, young, straight, gay. His understanding of the emotional landscape is complete.

The Stranger's Child begins in 1913, with the handsome aristocratic Cambridge student and poet Cecil Valance visiting his college friend Geo
Helene Jeppesen
This was a really interesting story because it deals with the same woman through different periods of her life. One section can be about her adulthood, but then suddenly we skip to her in her 60s. The interesting thing lies in the way that we don't recognize what is going on during those skips. We suddenly encounter a cast of different characters and POVs, and it's not until several pages later we realize what that has to do with Daphne's, our main character's, story.
For that reason I wouldn't
Claire Fuller
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
I loved this, everything about this. The characters, the time jumps, the poignancy of characters that were gone in the future sections and how memories of them became blurred and changed, and how ultimately they were forgotten, as we all will be. And the one character whose memory was threaded through the book became someone else from the real man. Very clever. The only negative thing to say is about the cover - I really don't like it.
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In 2004 Alan Hollinghurst made literary headlines by winning the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Line of Beauty. Set in Thatcher’s 1980’s Britain it courted mild controversy with its depictions of cocaine abuse and graphic gay sex. Seven years later The Stranger’s Child made the Man Booker long list and then fell out of contention, which led to bitter complaints from those critics who believe that Hollinghurst is Britain’s greatest living writer.

I approached this book with optimism. I hadn’t
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My enjoyment of the first two sections of this novel was tinged by the suspicion that I was merely indulging in some Merchant Ivory–caliber WWI-era nostalgia—a suspicion perhaps fed by my having read Daniel Mendelsohn's review of the novel in the NYRB before reading the novel itself. In the end, however, the book comes through as a worthy offering from one of the best British novelists currently writing, although it didn't strike me with quite the force of The Line of Beauty.

Hollinghurst has be
Jim Coughenour
Jul 06, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Apparently I'm incapable of enjoying another "country house novel." After the archetypal Brideshead Revisted, is there any need for another? For the first 50 pages of The Stranger's Child I kept wondering if I was re-reading Atonement The Stranger's Child is also narrated by a precocious pubescent girl observing the affairs of her elders. But before the long the Dance to the Music of Time doldrums took over, the meticulous descriptions of the preciosities of the English upper class, the sexl ...more
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Closer to 4.5 stars.

At heart, a beautifully written, intriguing story about a young aristocratic (soon to be famous) poet spending a weekend at the family home of his shy, innocent Cambridge friend just before the outbreak of WWI and deftly weaves it's way through the reverberations of the decades that follow. Told from differing POVs, who sometimes are only loosely connected with the original characters, it weaves various threads into a satisfying tapestry of interconnected lives. It's underlyi
When you start reading this novel, you seem to have ended up in a nice, late 19th century society novel, very conventionally told and playing in the upper British class. But appearances are deceiving, because Hollinghurst has made a pretty clever and ingenious piece of work with alternating time periods, different storytelling perspectives and especially several layers of meaning.

There are quite a few connecting elements between the 5 time frames that the author provides us with. The aristocrati
Jan 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(Review written for - advance copy won via their Waterstone's Card competition)

Alan Hollinghurst’s new novel opens with a red herring and closes with a red herring. Let me explain.
The initial episode, the section named ‘Two Acres’, revolves around the visit of the the aristocratic rising star of poetry Cecil Valance to the relatively modest home - descriptively named “Two Acres” - of George Sawles. George and Cecil are lovers, but it is to George’s sixteen-year-old sister Daphne
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: Shelf Awareness
When I finished this novel, I just sat for five minutes, thinking of where this story had taken me in past week. This was long-listed for the 2011 Booker Prize, and why it didn’t get on the short list and then win, I won’t know. (But I may, next up is the winner, “The Sense of a Ending.”) Hollinghurst has won the award before, but his latest effort is an incredible story of love, loyalty, and the art of poetry (and much, much more). And it has ended at the top of my 2011 Best Of list just in the ...more
Nov 20, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
one can't necessarily blame an author for the blurb that his publisher writes on the inside leaf but when I read that " his impeccably nuanced exploration of changing taste , class and social etiquette is conveyed in deliciously witty and observant prose " , I felt decidedly queasy .
Unfortunately this sort of pretentious sickly marshmallow prose is typical of how Hollinghurst writes as well .
I am confused as to why whilst other cultural forms such as music ,art architecture etc seem to progres
Sep 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I loved this book. If it petered out a bit at the end, it's OK -- the lushness of the world it creates, the glorious writing and characterization, the almost cinematic presence of the settings and the people all made this a wonderful wonderful read. It's been a while since I felt like I was reading a master so fully in command of his craft - all of the voices, and all of the times seem fully realized -- from pre-lapsarian Edwardian England to today, from grand country house to bedraggled cottage ...more
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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
“she kept sliding down, in small half-willing surrenders, till she was a heap, with the book held tiringly above her face.” 7 likes
“There was the noise itself, which he thought of vaguely as the noise of classical music, sameish and rhetorical, full of feelings people surely never had” 7 likes
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