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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst: Review

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst is the 2004 winner of the Man Booker Prize. I was desperate to read this one after I read the storyline in a magazine and immediately went out and got both books by Alan Hollinghurst that I could find - The Swimming Pool Libraries and The Line of Beauty.

If you're aware of Hollinghurst's work, you'll know that the underlying themes in (maybe) most of his novels are sex, the exploration and understand of one's body and sexuality. Also, his subjects are gay, and his books offer us an insight into the inner lives of gays. I've read both The Swimming Pool Library and The Line of Beauty, and where I found the previous a little tedious at some places, I absolutely am in love with the latter.

The Line of Beauty essentially deals with the world of AIDS. It begins in the summer of 1983, the last summer before AIDS took its grip. The protagonist, Nicholas Guest, lives as house guest in the West London mansion of his Oxford friend Toby, Toby's sister and their parents. Toby's father is an MP, who is expected to take a prominent place in the Thatcher government. Nicholas is about to turn 21, he is gay, he is an intellectual, has a very good mind of his own, and begins thinking of this family as his own.

The title 'Line of Beauty' is a reference that Nick uses to describe his lover's body - a shape that is the model of beauty and that will swing both ways. The line of beauty refers to the 'S' of the ogee shape that is curve shaped like an 'S'.

With the 80s on in full swing, Nick finds himself getting more and more entangled in the world of fashion, hi-life and luxurious pleasures of the Feddens household, and in comparison, finds his own parents and his life quite dull and colour-less.

The novel has many angles, politics, money, power and of course, the underlying sexual themes that take a place of prominence as Nick gets ready to explore more of his sexual side. The novel is at times graphic, at times touching, and all through its pages, it creates a special world for you, where you start identifying Nick's surroundings and see yourself sitting in the lawn, or sitting by him and reading a book as he works on his papers. You find yourself walking along the road with him as he walks his cycle, walking by his lover. You see the lines of doubt and confusion on his face as he broods over the many situations that unfold. You see his agony as he experiences heartbreak and the joy and excitement of new love that he experiences. Alan Hollinghurst cleverly and very easily manages to take you right inside the Feddens's living room and bedrooms, and you feel as if you yourself are right there inside the pages of the book that you are holding in your hand. You feel the winter chill, you feel the warmth of the fireplace.

It's an absolute thrill of a novel, one that explores the joys, the trials and triumphs of gay life, its beauty, its luxuries, its pamperings, its brattiness,its love, as well as its haunting realities of AIDS. A gorgeous novel.....one that you absolutely got to read! You'll miss a lot if you don't.
I give it 5 stars - AWESOME

- Debolina Raja Gupta