The Stranger's Child

  • by Alan Hollinghurst
  • Narrated by James Daniel Wilson
  • 19 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Line of Beauty: a magnificent, century-spanning saga about a love triangle that spawns a myth, and a family mystery, across generations.
In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge schoolmate—a handsome, aristocratic young poet named Cecil Valance—to his family’s modest home outside London for the weekend. George is enthralled by Cecil, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by him and the stories he tells about Corley Court, the country estate he is heir to. But what Cecil writes in Daphne’s autograph album will change their and their families’ lives forever: a poem that, after Cecil is killed in the Great War and his reputation burnished, will become a touchstone for a generation, a work recited by every schoolchild in England. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as other secrets lie buried—until, decades later, an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them.
Rich with Hollinghurst's signature gifts—haunting sensuality, delicious wit and exquisite lyricism—The Stranger’s Child is a tour de force: a masterly novel about the lingering power of desire, how the heart creates its own history, and how legends are made.

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What the Critics Say

“Brilliantly written, intricate and wide-reaching . . . An almost century-long cavalcade of changing social, sexual and cultural attitudes, exhibited in sensuously imagined scenes and scrutinized with ironic wit . . . Marvelously acute in its attention to idioms and idiosyncrasies, tone and body language, psychological and emotional nuances, the book gives intensely credible life to its swarm of characters.” (Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times, London)
“Not only Alan Hollinghurst’s most ambitious novel to date, but also his funniest since The Spell . . . Hollinghurst is perhaps our most literary contemporary novelist, in the sense that his books are . . . playfully, but never merely flippantly, studded with allusions. . . . The principal theme of the workings of time and memory [is] brilliantly embodied in the book’s structure, with its bold narrative leaps forward…Beautifully written, ambitious in its scope and structure, confident in its execution, The Stranger’s Child is a masterclass in the art of the novel.”(Peter Parker, The Times Literary Supplement, UK)
“Highly entertaining and, as always with Hollinghurst, the dialogue is immaculate and the characterization first class. . . . Every Alan Hollinghurst novel is a cause for celebration, and this spacious, elegant satire is no exception.”(David Robson, Sunday Telegraph, UK)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Left me feeling sad and disappointed

I’m not a sophisticated reader, not educated in the liberal arts, and not "well read", so one should take this review with a grain of salt.

The humor referred to in "what the critics say" was completely missed by me; which; I suppose, attests to my limitations as a reader. But I do agree that it was beautifully written; and beautifully read, however it verged on the tedious. But never quite so much that I gave in to the urge to stop reading. In general it felt like very long roller coaster ride with long hauls and anticlimactic drops.

There is no "plot" just the story about a very handsome young aristocrat with "raven hair", "big hands" and "a huge..." who's family, poetry and, mostly homosexual escapades are the subject of the many family biographers, most, or all, of whom have their own homosexual escapades; with the main character or one another.

But the homosexual undercurrent of this; (Gothic novel?) is rather trite and cavalier. I mean, no one ever gets upset by being hit on, and everyone seems rather indifferent about the many "queer" characters in the book. None of whom seem a bit disturbed by how the many male characters go after one another. Very "romantic" but a bit difficult to believe, given the nature of "the crime that dares not speak it's name", and the period in which they was being committed.

Aside from that this book was a bit of a slog with a plethora of characters, coming and going; in and out, Jumping from one generation to the next and then, abruptly, without warning, ending.

It was all a bit of a tease for me, just when you got interested in a character the storyline shifted to another character entirely, often in another family or another generation.

It left me feeling rather sad and disappointed.
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- Michael Cox "Audiophile"

I Hated For It To End

What did you love best about The Stranger's Child?

I loved both its characters and the way the writer explores how and what is remembered.


What other book might you compare The Stranger's Child to and why?

I could loosely compare it to A.S. Byatt's Possession or Tennysons' "In Memoriam" (where the story got its title from.) Like Possession, we see biographers trying to unravel the mystery of what a famous poet was really like and who he was romantically involved with. Unlike Possession, the story isn't centered on "who dun' it" (although there are some surprising twists at the end), but rather who is remembered, how they are remembered, and who is forgotten. It's very poignant to see who and what is lost.


Which scene was your favorite?

The ending left me with chills. I also listened to the first part of the story over and over again because it is so well crafted.


If you could take any character from The Stranger's Child out to dinner, who would it be and why?

I adored Daphne, but would probably take Cecil out to dinner just to see what kind of mischief he would get himself into.


Any additional comments?

This is a beautifully written book. The author really knows his craft. The pace is set on slow burn. The book isn't about exposing one shocking revelation after another, but rather about how things are revealed and chosen to be remembered. You know that feeling when you finish a story and wish there was more? When you can't start anything else because what you just read was so good? When the story's over, but it still hangs like a veil over your daily life? That's where I am right now, after completing The Stranger's Child. It's definitely something I will listen to again.

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- Here-and-faraway

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-14-2011
  • Publisher: Random House Audio