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The Line of Beauty
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1001 book reviews > The Line of Beauty, by Alan Hollinghurst

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Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 481 comments While this was still not a 'great' book for me, and would not make my own version of a 1001 books list, this book was a LOT better than Swimming Pool Library. This novel had a plot, and a theme that was not just gay porn. The main character in this novel has actual boyfriends, not just a never-ending string of improbable hookups, and he and his friends and lovers have to deal with real world consequences for their lifestyle choices, in the form of AIDS and political and social fall-out. (There were some real consequences for the MC in Swimming Pool Library too, but they were overshadowed by the constant, graphic sex scenes that were the majority of the 'story'.)
In this story Nick, a graduate student in English, moves into his friend's parents' grand house short term, and ends up staying there for several years. The family is very well connected and through them Nick meets lots of powerful and wealthy people, and even dances with Margaret Thatcher. Nick's homosexuality is not exactly unknown to his host family, but they just don't talk about it. There are enough fashionable homosexual men in their world that they can take it in stride, for the most part, but still, when the host family's own scandalous behavior emerges, Nick's homosexuality becomes an easy lever to turn him into a scapegoat for all their problems. Meanwhile, AIDS is still a relatively new idea, but one that is slowly eliminating Nick's older homosexual friends, and by the time his host family no longer welcomes him, he has more serious concerns.
While not one of my favorite books, this book was enjoyable. It still has some of the graphic, gratuitous sex scenes that peppered Swimming Pool Library, but they do not take over the novel, and there are several other themes- AIDS, life among the wealthy and famous during the 80's, mental illness(one of the family's kids has bipolar), classic novelists & novels, etc.
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

Gail (gailifer) | 1536 comments Jamie, this is a great review and in many ways reflects my own reading of the book. I did not intend to read the book this early in the month but when I got it from the library I thought I would read the first few pages just to get a taste. Well 100 pages later, I was hooked. What is interesting is that one does not really like any of the characters, including the Main Character, nor do I have a particular interest in the times depicted. However, the writing was extremely well done and I felt as if I was seeing something that I otherwise would not have seen. It was a touch voyeuristic in that way.
I felt that although it was not a plot driven novel, that the slow evolution of the characters and the awareness of the nature of the changing times was quite well paced and subtle, even if the characters themselves were not subtle.
Overall, I really enjoyed the reading and also would give it 4 stars.

Diane  | 2051 comments I agree with Jamie that this was much better than The Swimming Pool Library, which I loathed. This book had a great plot and great character development. Although this book had a lot of literary merit, there a few too many gratuitous elements reminiscent of The Swimming Pool Library that resulted in a 3-star rating from me.

Kristel (kristelh) | 4259 comments Mod
This story is set in the 1980s, London, England during the Thatcher years and is a book about politics, society and family. In the reviews I read it is compared to Proust. The protagonist is a young, gay man, who simple takes up residence with this family and never leaves for about 4 years. It is through is observations that we view these years. We also view the struggles of this coming of age tale of a young homosexual male. Of all the books I have read about gay males, this and Giovanni's Room, are the best. I think I was able to get a glimpse of the difficulties a LGBTQ person must experience compared a 'straight' person. I don't generally like these books and do not feel a need to read them because the matter isn't something that I can relate to. Still, I think this book was well written. Negatives would be that I did not appreciate the details about the actual sexual activity. But I don't need this in any form in my book. You should be able to write these books without such detail.

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