In the late summer of 1913 the aristocratic young poet Cecil Valance comes to stay at ‘Two Acres’, the home of his close Cambridge friend George Sawle. The weekend will be one of excitements and confusions for all the Sawles, but it is on George’s sixteen-year-old sister Daphne that it will have the most lasting impact, when Cecil writes her a poem which will become a touchstone for a generation, an evocation of an England about to change for ever. Linking the Sawle and Valance families irrevocably, the shared intimacies of this weekend become legendary events in a larger story, told and interpreted in different ways over the coming century, and subjected to the scrutiny of critics and biographers with their own agendas and anxieties. In a sequence of widely separated episodes we follow the two families through startling changes in fortune and circumstance. At the centre of this often richly comic history of sexual mores and literary reputation runs the story of Daphne, from innocent girlhood to wary old age.
Around her Hollinghurst draws an absorbing picture of an England constantly in flux. As in The Line of Beauty, his impeccably nuanced exploration of changing taste, class and social etiquette is conveyed in deliciously witty and observant prose. Exposing our secret longings to the shocks and surprises of time, The Stranger's Child is an enthralling novel from one of the finest writers in the English language.
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Very dissapointing - dreadful narration
- Stephanie Whitelock
I was incredibly fascinated by the themes of biography, memory and memoir. I found the narration terrible, largely because all the characters seemed terribly trivialised and I suspect this wasn't wholly due to the writing, but rather the delivery.
I found Daphne's character the most fascinating, but I felt Hollinghurst lost interest with her. He exploited her naivity at the end, but I didn't really believe that a character who had negotiated so many complex relationships would be that naive.
I struggled with each transition, firstly to place the characters, but then to care about them. And then I felt Hollinghurst deliberately undermined any affection that might develop on behalf of the reader, though I wasn't sure why. Having said that I thought the structure was incredibly intriguing, and it was effective.
No, because the structure means it contains its own sequels.