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The Line of Beauty

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  19,130 Ratings  ·  1,154 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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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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May 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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,

There are many models of beauty and as old saying goes beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is a classic definition of the line of beauty depicted by Hogarth in his work Analyse of beauty , it’s a S-shaped double curve, though for Nick, the main protagonist of Alan Hollinghurst novel, the perfect line of beauty creates delicate curve of lover’s back.

Novel starts in the summer 1983 when young Nick Guest moves into the house of his friend Toby Fedden. This part breathes newness and freshn
Sometimes one has to admit that one's preconceptions about a book are entirely wrong. Despite having read most of the Booker winners I had been oddly reluctant to tackle this one, partly because I had heard about its graphic descriptions of gay sex and that is just not a subject that interests me. This book confounded such baseless expectations, and the final part in particular is very moving. I can't really do justice to the book in a short review, for which I apologise.

This story of Nick Guest
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It makes me angry that I don't know much about U.S. history, modern U.S. history... and British history? Fuggedaboutit!! I wish I knew more about the Thatcher administration since the novel is coupled with those years as efficiently as THE HUMAN STAIN goes hand-in-hand with the Lewinski scandal. One must know how much pathos is ingrained in these particular events from not too long ago...since it adds the requisite magic to elevate them, these modern classics.

It's about: gay sex & drugs, the
Update: The BBC World Book Club podcast with Alan Hollinghurst, in which he talks about this novel, is available now at (and I make a brief appearance with a question about 42 minutes into the programme. Just FYI).

(Review below from October 2014)

I wanted to savour every word in this novel. I alternately dragged out the reading experience to relish the language, and sped through sections because I felt greedy and impatient and wanted to see what linguisti
K.D. Absolutely
May 25, 2011 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay-lit
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
May 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, kindle, man-booker
3.5 stars A really masterful novel, though not one that I'd say I always particularly enjoyed. The dragging middle was book-ended by some wonderfully flagrant and emotional moments. I especially loved how Hollinghurst was able to stir up so emotion in the final scenes. It touches on public and private selves, love, beauty, all rather grandiose themes, in a startlingly humorous and down-to-earth manner.
Jul 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grsm-lgbtqia
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
Feb 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The gay Great Gatsby in Thacher's England. Also, the best book I've read in years.
Claire Fuller
Aug 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
It took me a little while to get into this book, but when I did, I couldn't stop. For a little while I couldn't see what the point of the story was. The 1980s and especially Conservative politicians, and rich families weren't something that I thought interested me, but although that's the decade this book is set in, and that's the backdrop to what happens, it isn't about that at all. It's about thinking that you are accepted and welcomed, and then suddenly those that you thought loved you, turni ...more
DNF at about pg 228.

The Line of Beauty is actually the first book I don't finish. It is a bittersweet feeling, but I am quite happy with my decision and I feel absolutely relieved.
I always pressure myself to finish the book even if I don't like it and such. However, I don't think that is the best approach to reading. We should be able to do what we want to do. We don't like a book and don't want to reach the end? Fine. Do we want to push ourselves till the last page? Do it.
There are so many book
Britta Böhler
I find it difficult to rate and review this book.
There are aspects I thoroughly enjoyed (the themes, the writing, the wit) and others that I disliked equally strongly: the pacing, the cliché-characters; not even the main character, Nick, come alive for me, he stayed bland and somewhat aloof.
Despite these negative aspects, the book provided an insightful view on the politics of the Thatcher-years, and (more importantly for me personally) it brought back the 'beginning' of AIDS in the early and
Sep 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: booker-prize
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
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
O livro começa com a segunda vitória eleitoral de Margaret Thatcher em 1983 e termina em 1987, no ano em que acaba esse mesmo mandato. Nick Guest é convidado a permanecer com os Fedden em Notting Hill, por ser amigo do filho mais velho Toby, tendo ambos frequentado a Universidade de Oxford. Na primeira parte da história Alan Hollinghurst foca-se sobretudo na vida amorosa de Nick. Jovem, atraente e homossexual assumido, Nick procura o seu ideal parceiro e tudo leva a crer que o encontra em Leo. P ...more
Julie Christine
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.
مروان البلوشي
تاريخ القراءة الأصلي : 2009
Sep 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ficciones
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
Aug 31, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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
Leo Robertson
DNF @ 1/2

When I broke and read the Wikipedia story summary, I was like, 'Ohhhh that's what this book's about! Why didn't it tell me?"

It makes an interesting point, then, that even a hidden intolerance is deadly. I guess? That one hand you're like, well, you guys have your gay bars and your drugs and your outside sex: what's not to like? But they're like, well, what choice do we have? You don't want us at your regular-people bars, won't let us sleep in the same bed in our homes without feeling gu
Melinda Elizabeth
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Nick is a young educated middle class man who sides himself with the family of a wealthy politician, and ingratiates himself into the family’s life, taking occupancy in their son’s old room.

Set in the 1980’s, Nick begins to share intimacies with the reading audience quite early on. He’s recently come out to his closest friends (however not his family) and is beginning to live the life that he thinks a young gay man should live. He’s answering advertisements in gay meet up magazines, and fulfill
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'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
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One thing about Booker winners is that with each re-read, they get better and in the process you discover some detail you missed out first time round. I last read TLoB in 2008 and now now 8 years later I realise that I forgot a lot of it.

The story is about a lower middle class gay man called Nick Guest, as his surname states, he is a guest at the upper class Feddens. The mother is a descendant of a noble family while Gerald Fedden is a minister. The book takes place in the 80's at the height of
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
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
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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.” 25 likes
“The worse they are the more they see beauty in each other.” 23 likes
More quotes…