About four months ago, I had the great pleasure of meeting a complete stranger who had as little a clue who I was as I did he. That stranger turned out to be the much (much, much, much) acclaimed Alan Hollinghurst. He also turned out to be leaving so our actual encounter was incredibly brief, details of which can be found here.
Having owned up to the shame of turning up to lauch of a book about an author knowing literally nothing about him, I resolved to educate myself on the work of the eponymous author. My partner ensured I made good on this by buying me a copy of The Line of Beauty for Christmas. As usual, I’m way behind the crowd on this one, but the political satire of this treatise in hedonism and conservatism certainly hasn’t expired in the interim.
Much like the “Line of Beauty” which gives the book it’s title, the novel takes an almost double ‘s’ outline itself: the protagonist’s fumbling romance with substance and sex formin the first, and political intrigue and scheming meeting it in a graceful arch.
The story focuses on a less than charming protagonist, Nick. The son of an antiques dealer to the minor nobility of the British countryside, Nick relies on the hospitality of The Feddens, whom he became affiliated with during his time at Oxford with their son. Already he sounds off-putting to me, and I’ve read the book, but however much charm or subtlety Nick lacks, Hollinghurst gains tenfold in the telling of it.
Beginning with the landslide victory of the Tories in 1983 and following the unfolding events closely, this book couldn’t be more topical today with the scandals surrounding empees and contentious unfoldings in Europe. I must say some of the ideas posed by Gerald Fedden, the pompous, patriarchal MP who takes our protagonist Nick in, are as hilarious as they are eerily imaginable. Yah. Adding to the realism of the tripe spoken by Mr. Fedden is a authenticity in the dialogue of all of the characters who you could meet on a London Street any day of the week.
The satire of the novel is used to great advantage to throw a light on the fallacies of all and sundry, regardless of their political affiliations which I think managed to balance out how the novel occasionally felt just that bit too bourgeois, with its italicised French popping up and references to pieces of classical music. Overall, The Line of Beauty was a relaxing, humorous, and above all else, topical novel to read in 2017.