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.
“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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I Hated For It To End
I loved both its characters and the way the writer explores how and what is remembered.
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.
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.
I adored Daphne, but would probably take Cecil out to dinner just to see what kind of mischief he would get himself into.
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.
Couldn't Finish It
I really enjoyed two other Allan Hollinghurst books, but I could not get into this story enough to finish it. To be fair to Mr. Hollinghurst, I don't think think it's his fault. This audiobook's performer was quite bad. He made it sound like a children's book. The performance was so distracting that I found myself focusing on it instead of the story. I gave up trying to finish it once I realized it had become a chore. I think I'll return it under Audible's new Great Listen Guarantee.