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The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

What did you think of The Line of Beauty?  

5 members have voted

  1. 1. What did you think of the book?

    • 5/5 - I loved it
      0
    • 4/5 - I really liked it
    • 3/5 - I enjoyed it
    • 2/5 - It was okay, but nothing special
      0
    • 1/5 - I hated it
      0


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Welcome to the February 2014 Reading Circle for The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

It is assumed that you have read the book before reading posts in this thread, as the discussion might give away crucial points, and the continuous use of spoiler tags might hinder fluent reading of posts.

 

002-2014-Jan-16-TheLineofBeauty_zpse378f

 

Synopsis

It is the summer of 1983, and young Nick Guest, an innocent in the matters of politics and money, has moved into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the Feddens: Gerald, an ambitious new Tory MP, his wealthy wife Rachel, and their children Toby and Catherine. Nick had idolized Toby at Oxford, but in his London life it will be the troubled Catherine who becomes his friend and his uneasy responsibility. At the boom years of the mid-80s unfold, Nick becomes caught up in the Feddens’ world. In an era of endless possibility, Nick finds himself able to pursue his own private obsession, with beauty – a prize as compelling to him as power and riches are to his friends.

 

Questions for discussion (please answer as many or as few as you wish)

 

1. Did you like the book?   What was it that you enjoyed?  If you didn't like the book, what were your reasons for disliking it?

 

2. Did you have any expectations about the book before you started reading it, and if so, were they correct?

 

3. Who was your favourite character...?

 

4. ...and your least favourite?

 

5. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

 

6. Was this the first book you've read in this genre / by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

7. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

8. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

9. Would you recommend the book and if so to whom?

 

10. Was Nick made a scapegoat or did he deserve his treatment by the Feddens at the end of the book?

 

There is a poll above this post, so please do go and give your score for the book.   :)

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1. Did you like the book?   What was it that you enjoyed?  If you didn't like the book, what were your reasons for disliking it?

 

I think this could be an easy book to dislike.  Few of the characters seem to have many likeable traits.  However I enjoyed it and I thought the writing was very good. As someone who remembers the 80s (I was 17 in ’83 when the book opened) I thought it very well captured the atmosphere of the time and the things I read about in the paper – the decadent lifestyle of section sections of society (particularly the “Hooray Henrys/Sloane Ranger” types) - and the increasing awareness of HIV and AIDS . 

 

2. Did you have any expectations about the book before you started reading it, and if so, were they correct?

 

I was a bit worried that it might be overly political, and whilst I always use my vote and think it’s important to do so, I wouldn’t consider myself to someone who is interested in the minutiae of politics.   However, although politics is obviously a feature of the book, it wasn’t too detailed - I think Hollinghurst got the balance just right.  :)

 

3. Who was your favourite character...?

 

I’m not sure I had a favourite character in terms of liking that character (if that makes sense!) but I think my favourite person in the novel was probably Catherine.  I liked her vulnerability and also the fact that she showed that Nick’s had a softer, caring side. 

 

4. ...and your least favourite?

 

There were lots of dislikeable characters in this book.  I guess Gerald stands out as a stereotypical sleazy (Tory, in this case!) politician.  

 

5. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

 

I think probably towards the end of the novel when things started to go wrong for Nick - the pace of the book picked up a bit, I think.

 

6. Was this the first book you've read in this genre / by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

The only LGBT novel I’ve read is Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.  I have read other titles that have touched on the subject though.  I wouldn’t choose a novel because  it was LGBT, but then I don’t tend to choose a novel for a particular subject - if it’s got a good story line then I’m happy to read it, so on that basis I would be happy to read more of this genre. 

 

7. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

I didn’t struggle with any of it.  I found the drug-taking aspect distasteful but I didn’t struggle with it - it’s just a concept/lifestyle that is completely alien to me and holds no interest whatsoever. 

 

8. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

Yes, I enjoyed the book.  I did feel that maybe it was a little on the long side in places and perhaps could have been condensed slightly, but then I’m no writer so far be it from to criticise! 

 

9. Would you recommend the book and if so to whom?

 

I would recommend the book – especially if, like me, you remember the period when it was set.  It really evoked the feeling of the 80s.  I think maybe if people do not like reading about sex then maybe this isn’t for them though, although the sex within the book isn’t offensive (well, I didn’t find it offensive!).   

 

10. Did Nick deserve his treatment by the Feddens at the end of the book?

 

No, I think he was treated unfairly by the Feddens.   They pretty much treated him as a family member (although is sexuality wasn’t really referred to - I think they preferred not to think about it!) and Rachel and Gerald went as far as to treat him as Catherine’s protector and counsellor.  Throughout the novel I had a feeling that when push came to shove they wouldn’t stand by Nick. I felt sorry for him - they turned on him and he didn’t deserve that.

 

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I'm just going to throw my thoughts down in a haphazard manner rather than follow the questions if that's ok! :D

 

I would rate the book as a 3/5. I enjoyed it, but felt it was overly long and therefore dragged in some places. Like Janet, I enjoyed the last section of the book the most when the pace was at its fastest.

 

Most of the characters in the novel were wholly dislikeable. I was born in the mid-80s, so I don't remember the decade. I know the book probably reflected attitudes of the time, but it was still jarring to here gay people almost blamed for getting HIV/AIDS, as well as the prevalence of it in Nick's circle.

 

One thing I didn't understand - if he had a test, was negative and then careful, the chances of him getting it then must have been minimal, no?

 

The Feddens' treatment of Nick was disgusting, frankly. He was invited into their house, spent years there, and yet they kicked him out apparently for being exposed in the papers as being gay. None of the rest of it was his fault - they should have looked at their own treatment of Catherine rather than Nick's, I would suggest. It wasn't his fault Gerald was a sleazy politician, and it wasn't him who exposed that. Nor was Catherine's illness his fault.

 

I agree - they preferred not to think about Nick's sexuality!

 

I think my least favourite character was Wani, though. He didn't seem to care for Nick in the early years and then refused to acknowledge their relationship and treated him as an employee paid for sex on the side!

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 One thing I didn't understand - if he had a test, was negative and then careful, the chances of him getting it then must have been minimal, no?

I wondered about that when I read it, and I actually looked at a few passages today when I was typing my answers.  I *think* maybe he lied when he told Leo's sister that he'd been careful - or rather, not lied exactly, but maybe not been as careful as he'd said he'd been?

 

Otherwise yes, the chances of becoming infected are very slim. 

 

I gave it 3½ on my review - but went for 3 here because it's not a 4!  :)

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1. Did you like the book?   What was it that you enjoyed?  If you didn't like the book, what were your reasons for disliking it?


I had mixed feelings about the book. At the beginning i liked it, i liked Nick & sympathised with him because he felt a bit of an outsider at the Feddens & was unsure of himself in his new relationship with Theo. But as the book went on i got fed up with reading about his sexploits, sexual fantasies &  him eyeing up every bloke he clapped eyes on. I also despised the Feddens & their adoration of Margaret Thatcher & i really started to think i don't like this book but as the story went on i realised that you weren't supposed to like the people in the story,  they were meant to be shallow, superficial & out for themselves & once i accepted that i really started to appreciate the writing.


2. Did you have any expectations about the book before you started reading it, and if so, were they correct?


I suppose i expected the book to be well written as it had won the Man Booker in 2004 but apart from that i didn't really know anything about the story or it's author.


3. Who was your favourite character...?


I didn't like anybody in the story, as i said i liked Nick at the beginning until i got to know him.


4. ...and your least favourite?


That would be the Feddens ..... i would have guillotined the lot of them. I hated everything about them with their .... "Okay Yahs" & their true blue conservatism. I felt that they allowed Nick to live with them not because they liked him or really thought of him as a friend of the family but because it was convienient for them to use him as a handler for Catherine. I felt that they had no real loyalty to anyone , their friends who they invited to visit them while on holiday in France they only did so because they were big financial backers of the party & Gerald of course was cheating on his wife & was involved in some kind of fraud so no loyalty there either just self interest & greed.


5. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?


In the beginning when Nick first hooked up with Leo  i thought Nick's insecurities about himself & his first sexual experience were well written & certainly came across as believable. Also when he found out about Leo's death & his reaction to it he actually seemed to see how empty & superficial his lifestyle was even if it was only a fleeting realisation & Wani's decline into ill health i found quite moving even though i didn't really like Wani i couldn't but feel sympathy for his fate.


 


6. Was this the first book you've read in this genre / by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?


I can't think of any other books i've read in this genre other than a few Sarah Waters books that have had Lesbian characters in & it is my first Alan Hollinghurst novel. I do have The Stranger's Child on my shelves so i will get round to reading it no doubt at some point.


 


7. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?


The part that really made me cringe was when Nick picks up Ricky in the public toilets. I don't like using public toilets myself & i only do so because otherwise i would be pretty restricted in how far from home i could go if i didn't so the thought of hooking up with someone in a toilet for sex just turns my stomach. Also the fact that the gay scene at that time just seemed to be sex with anyone, anywhere without any thought of having a relationship again it was all about people just being out for what they could get which for me seemed to be a bit of a theme throughout the book.


8. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?


Yes, as i say i had mixed feelings while i was reading it but now that i've finished it i still find myself thinking about the story so i think that it's a book that will stay with me.


 


9. Would you recommend the book and if so to whom?


I don't think it's a book i would recommend because of the amount of sex in it.


 


10. Was Nick made a scapegoat or did he deserve his treatment by the Feddens at the end of the book?


I think Nick was made a scapegoat of because by blaming everything on him they didn't have to look at themselves & their failings to closely but i didn't feel sorry for him as he was a parasite & so got what he deserved in the end.


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...i really started to think i don't like this book but as the story went on i realised that you weren't supposed to like the people in the story,  they were meant to be shallow, superficial & out for themselves & once i accepted that i really started to appreciate the writing.

 

I didn't like anybody in the story, as i said i liked Nick at the beginning until i got to know him.

I think you've hit the nail on the head with your first comment above.  I can't imagine anyone reading it would like the characters - they were indeed shallow and mercenary.   I liked Nick very much at the start but he went down in my estimations too!

 

How are those of you who are still reading it getting on with it? 

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Sorry I'm so late to the party, it took me longer than I imagined to finish the book! :blush:

As always, I will first post my own answers before getting into those of others, so as not to let anyone's answers affect my thoughts :)

1. Did you like the book?   What was it that you enjoyed?  If you didn't like the book, what were your reasons for disliking it?

I did like it, and I enjoyed it and also at times I didn't. I think I enjoyed reading about people's interactions, and how Nick's personal relationships carried on, and when things actually happened. When the story moved along. The times when I felt the book could've done with a bit of editing, were usually the parties. Or when new places were described. The endless descriptions of paintings, sculptures, ... And the parties! There were more interesting details in the parties, and interesting happenings, but sometimes the author would take a bit longer dwelling on the more boring characters and events than I wished.

 

Sometimes I would get into the story really quick, upon picking the book up to continue reading, and at times I felt like I lost the plot and my interest. And just when I thought 'now I'm totally in tune! Loving it!', the first part of the book ended and the next part was something altogether new, 3 years later. I felt like I had to pick up all the pieces again and try and put the puzzle together to make sense of it.

 

And yet I did enjoy reading about the 'mighty people', all the social commentary and the 'keeping up with appearances' and things. I would say this book is a hard one to describe and review :D

 
2. Did you have any expectations about the book before you started reading it, and if so, were they correct?

I don't think I had any expectations about the book.... I did think that it might not be my sort of book, so I think I expected that I might not get along with it. I've seen the book in the library many times and I've sometimes picked it up before to read the blurb. I've been curious about Alan Hollinghurst for some years now but I always thought that he might be difficult to get. So with all that in mind, I think I did better than I expected... So I guess I did expect something after all.

 
3. Who was your favourite character...?
 I didn't have any :o I really can't say that I particularly liked any of the characters. And I didn't love to hate any of them either, so I didn't find the 'villains' too favourable, either. I thought I might like Gerald, in a really weird way, but was wrong in the end.

 

4. ...and your least favourite?

Leo! I found him so annoying. I didn't like the way he treated Nick. Like when he played his games with him. And how he went to see Nick and then all of a sudden suggested Nick tag along and they go meet Pete, his ex. Maybe that was him being genuine, but to me it was so odd, it was so uncomfortable for Nick. I couldn't really understand Leo at all and I didn't trust him.

 

I also didn't like Nick. I think he was a freeloader. And sometimes I would feel sorry because he was from a decidedly inferior background, and then I remembered that his parents were normal people and they had work and they weren't poor or anything, and that there really wasn't any real (financial) reason for Nick to stay with the Feddens. When I remembered all this, I was always newly shocked by how easily the freeloading came to Nick. He came to expect this social and financial stability! And I didn't find him all that nice in other ways, either... He was such a brownnoser, too.

 
5. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

I would say the end of the novel, where things unravelled. I didn't expect it, I think it was quite genious, and I was glued to the pages at that point :)
 

6. Was this the first book you've read in this genre / by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

If by 'genre' we mean the aspect of sexuality, it's not my first book. It's my first book by Hollinghurst, and I don't quite know what to make of him. A few of his books are on a few of my reading challenges and so I've been wanting to read them, but I don't know how excited I am about the prospect. I think I will have to read the blurbs of those books again and see if they are interesting.
 

7. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

Like I said earlier, I was struggling to keep on reading when Hollinghurst spent too much time on describing places and events and dialogue that didn't really carry the story anywhere.
 

8. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

In the end, I suppose it was. The end of the novel was really great and I am happy I read the book :)

 

9. Would you recommend the book and if so to whom?
 I think I would only recommend the book to people who love Hollinghursts other novels and haven't read this one yet.

 

10. Was Nick made a scapegoat or did he deserve his treatment by the Feddens at the end of the book?
 I think he was made a scapegoat. He was single, so he was free to have relations with anyone he pleased. It's really nothing to do with the Feddens or Gerald's political career. Gerald was the married man who had 'sexual relations with that woman', and who had his schemy business thing going on. He was the politician, he was the one whose actions will reflect on his career.

 

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1. Did you like the book?   What was it that you enjoyed?  If you didn't like the book, what were your reasons for disliking it?

 

I think this could be an easy book to dislike.  Few of the characters seem to have many likeable traits.  However I enjoyed it and I thought the writing was very good. As someone who remembers the 80s (I was 17 in ’83 when the book opened) I thought it very well captured the atmosphere of the time and the things I read about in the paper – the decadent lifestyle of section sections of society (particularly the “Hooray Henrys/Sloane Ranger” types) - and the increasing awareness of HIV and AIDS .

 

I was born in -81 so I was too young for all the grownup things to remember them now, but I have heard about the HIV and AIDS panic back in the 80s, and how the 80s was the time of the yuppies. When reading the book, I actually thought about how the people didn't seem all that panicky about HIV as I thought they would. Maybe these upper class people didn't really think about it because maybe they didn't think it really concerned them? That only gay people had HIV and gay people were only people that the upper class didn't really associate with? Although Polly was gay and upper class, right?

 

 

3. Who was your favourite character...?

 

I’m not sure I had a favourite character in terms of liking that character (if that makes sense!) but I think my favourite person in the novel was probably Catherine.  I liked her vulnerability and also the fact that she showed that Nick’s had a softer, caring side. 

 

I really liked how Catherine wasn't afraid to voice her opinions. How she talked to Maurice about how he gave so little to the charity cause, when he was so incredibly rich and could've given so much more. She was very humane that way. I do wish there would've been more to Catherine in the novel, she was too much in the sidelines.

 

10. Did Nick deserve his treatment by the Feddens at the end of the book?

 

No, I think he was treated unfairly by the Feddens.   They pretty much treated him as a family member (although is sexuality wasn’t really referred to - I think they preferred not to think about it!) and Rachel and Gerald went as far as to treat him as Catherine’s protector and counsellor.  Throughout the novel I had a feeling that when push came to shove they wouldn’t stand by Nick. I felt sorry for him - they turned on him and he didn’t deserve that.

I do wonder why Gerald and Rachel were so okay about him living there in the house, if in the end they were so quick to discard him. Did they honestly just keep him around to have someone watch over Catherine?

 

 

One thing I didn't understand - if he had a test, was negative and then careful, the chances of him getting it then must have been minimal, no?

 

I wondered about that when I read it, and I actually looked at a few passages today when I was typing my answers. I *think* maybe he lied when he told Leo's sister that he'd been careful - or rather, not lied exactly, but maybe not been as careful as he'd said he'd been?

I wondered about this, too. My theory is that he was being safe (i.e. practiced safe sex), but because he had rather a few people in his life who had HIV or AIDS, he just wanted to make sure. I think it was because back in the day, people were paranoid about the disease and all kinds of rumours circulated about it. They just didn't have as much information and facts about it as we do now, or they didn't look things up but believed all the rumours etc.

 

And of course condoms are not always 100% sure.

 

 

The Feddens' treatment of Nick was disgusting, frankly. He was invited into their house, spent years there, and yet they kicked him out apparently for being exposed in the papers as being gay. None of the rest of it was his fault - they should have looked at their own treatment of Catherine rather than Nick's, I would suggest. It wasn't his fault Gerald was a sleazy politician, and it wasn't him who exposed that. Nor was Catherine's illness his fault.

I agree. I can't believe how unconcerned they seemed to be about Catherine's mental state and illness. And how Gerald told Nick he was disappointed in him because he didn't seem to get Cat at all. Well Nick's just a kid compared to Gerald who is a grown up, and really responsible for Catherine, being her father!! :rolleyes: Unbelievable.

 

  

7. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

The part that really made me cringe was when Nick picks up Ricky in the public toilets. I don't like using public toilets myself & i only do so because otherwise i would be pretty restricted in how far from home i could go if i didn't so the thought of hooking up with someone in a toilet for sex just turns my stomach. Also the fact that the gay scene at that time just seemed to be sex with anyone, anywhere without any thought of having a relationship again it was all about people just being out for what they could get which for me seemed to be a bit of a theme throughout the book.

I think finding someone in a public toilet to partner up with was just a matter of convenience back in the day. If you're a straight man and need to use the loo, you're not going to stick around... So the ones who do take their time, you know are gay, and then it becomes so much easier to see if you fancy them and hook up. If one feels like having sex, it's just such an easy way to find someone to have sex with. :shrug: And you could always act like you were having just an innocent pee, if some heterosexual becomes suspicious... Being gay was such a public taboo in the 80s that finding other gay people in other places than the loos or similar places was just so much harder than it is today.

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Finally finished this one. It took me longer than I expected. I did enjoy it much more than I expected from the blurb, mainly from the detail in the writing.

 

I quite liked Nick at the beginning but in the end he really grated on me, he seemed to be very passive, in that he never really made anything happen for himself, apart from cruising for sex!. Never thought to move out of the Feddens, or get a job that he wasn't handed on a plate.He even allowed others to supply his drugs and pay for him (the one time he did a deal on behalf of Wani, he built it up into his mind as a romantic adventure seeing himself as a secret agent!). I think that right at the end we get a glimpse that he will mature and move on, when he sees Wani off in the car and has been caring for him.

 

The writing really evoked the 80's for me (when I was probably of a similar age to the younger characters), it encapsulated the hedonism and selfishness of the age. Every one seemed to be on the make. The clubs, the small portions and high prices...I remember it well...!

 

Catherine didn't come across, to me, as strong in her opinions, I just thought she was totally self absorbed. when she exposed her fathers affair, I feel she was doing it to get back at him in some way, rather than that she felt he was doing wrong. I thought she was very disengaged from her family all the way through the novel and, like Nick, didn't seem to take responsibility for her actions or emotions. She was suffering from a mental illness, so this may be some kind of reason for her lack of engagement, but I thought she just had no direction. 

 

I liked the development of the relationship with Leo, it did capture that exquisite pain of first love, and was quite saddened to find that part two moved on and there was no mention of him until the terrible news at the end. I presumed about the AIDS testing section that Nick was between tests as HIV has an incubation period so a first negative test is not absolutely conclusive, you have to be tested again, I think it's 3 months after the first test. If you were clear at the first test, you could then be positive at the next even if you hadn't been exposed to the virus between. 

 

I felt that the novel was very British in it's style, similar to the Henry James, Wharton type which was often quoted. I often had a sort of  "Brideshead Revisited" in the back of my mind. Especially with the unrequited love/lust Nick had for Toby. I wonder how any of you readers from other countries found it, i guess there are probably parallels for US readers of the Wall Street/Reagan years? 

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The times when I felt the book could've done with a bit of editing, were usually the parties. Or when new places were described. The endless descriptions of paintings, sculptures, ... And the parties! There were more interesting details in the parties, and interesting happenings, but sometimes the author would take a bit longer dwelling on the more boring characters and events than I wished.

I totally agree. There were times when I was thinking “enough already with the descriptions - we get it!" It was odd, because in places I felt the writing was so tight – so I don’t know why he felt the need to give so much detail in those parts of the book.

 

I would say this book is a hard one to describe and review :D

Again, I agree with this. I finished the book on 16 January but didn’t actually answer my questions until 1 February, even though I’d had them written down for ages. I kept looking at them and thinking “I’ll do that later…”! :lol:

 

I also didn't like Nick. I think he was a freeloader. And sometimes I would feel sorry because he was from a decidedly inferior background, and then I remembered that his parents were normal people and they had work and they weren't poor or anything, and that there really wasn't any real (financial) reason for Nick to stay with the Feddens. When I remembered all this, I was always newly shocked by how easily the freeloading came to Nick. He came to expect this social and financial stability! And I didn't find him all that nice in other ways, either... He was such a brownnoser, too.

I understand why he spent so much time there at the beginning of the book, but in some respects it didn’t ring true that he would stay for so long. We had a house guest a few years ago who came to stay for a week and ended up staying for over two months, and in the end Peter had to ask him to leave – and it really ruined our relationship with him. His life has gone downhill since he left us (this was on the cards anyway and nothing to do with us asking him to leave) but although Peter keeps in touch by text we haven’t seen him since. I know it’s not quite the same as Nick was a friend of the son of the house and not the Gerard, but it didn’t feel believable that the relationship would last for as long as it did without it feeling that he’d outstayed his welcome!

 

I am happy I read the book :)

I’m glad about this – I couldn’t really make up my mind whether I thought people would enjoy it whilst I was reading it. Although it’s interesting that the four people who have read it and voted have all given it 3/5 and that none of us really loved… or really hated it.

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I do have The Stranger's Child on my shelves so i will get round to reading it no doubt at some point.

Do you know, I haven’t even looked at Hollinghurst’s other titles! :blush: I should go and check them out. :)

 

Catherine didn't come across, to me, as strong in her opinions, I just thought she was totally self absorbed. when she exposed her fathers affair, I feel she was doing it to get back at him in some way, rather than that she felt he was doing wrong. I thought she was very disengaged from her family all the way through the novel and, like Nick, didn't seem to take responsibility for her actions or emotions. She was suffering from a mental illness, so this may be some kind of reason for her lack of engagement, but I thought she just had no direction.

This is interesting – I have almost the opposing view of Catherine from you. :) It doesn’t seem surprising to me that she was disengaged from her family – they seemed to me to be totally ambivalent to her. As long as they didn’t have to deal with her (and they had Nick to do that for them) then they were happy! I do agree that she seemed to be getting back at her father by exposing him, but I can’t say I blamed her for doing so!

 

I liked the development of the relationship with Leo, it did capture that exquisite pain of first love, and was quite saddened to find that part two moved on and there was no mention of him until the terrible news at the end.

I also thought it was a shame that we didn’t get to find out more about Leo until the end. Although I distrusted him somewhat at the beginning he was Nick’s first love so it seemed a rather abrupt departure from the novel for him in the middle section.

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I just wanted to say a big thank you to frankie, Alexi, kidsmum and Betty1997 for taking part in February's thread.  :)

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I'm so sorry for being so late with my reply, I've had other things on my mind!
 
 

I quite liked Nick at the beginning but in the end he really grated on me, he seemed to be very passive, in that he never really made anything happen for himself, apart from cruising for sex!. Never thought to move out of the Feddens, or get a job that he wasn't handed on a plate.He even allowed others to supply his drugs and pay for him (the one time he did a deal on behalf of Wani, he built it up into his mind as a romantic adventure seeing himself as a secret agent!). I think that right at the end we get a glimpse that he will mature and move on, when he sees Wani off in the car and has been caring for him.


I agree, he was very passive. Everything rather happened to him, he didn't make anything happen himself, did he. Except for the cruising, like you said. I understand the desire for cruising, he was a yound lad, but I didn't really get his lack of orientation with other things.
 

The writing really evoked the 80's for me (when I was probably of a similar age to the younger characters), it encapsulated the hedonism and selfishness of the age. Every one seemed to be on the make. The clubs, the small portions and high prices...I remember it well...!


I've heard about this, and read about this (in other places than just this novel), but it's hard for me to grasp, I was so young in the 80s (born in -81) and I don't know if me being Finnish also contributes... I don't know what differences there were between the UK and the States and Finland, and other places. It does remind me of American Psycho, I think that book is set in the 80s, too, with all the yuppies, comparing their cell phones and clothes and apartments and making such a fuss about the font and color and style of their ... calling cards? Not calling cards.. Business cards?

 

Catherine didn't come across, to me, as strong in her opinions, I just thought she was totally self absorbed. when she exposed her fathers affair, I feel she was doing it to get back at him in some way, rather than that she felt he was doing wrong. I thought she was very disengaged from her family all the way through the novel and, like Nick, didn't seem to take responsibility for her actions or emotions. She was suffering from a mental illness, so this may be some kind of reason for her lack of engagement, but I thought she just had no direction.

 

This is interesting – I have almost the opposing view of Catherine from you. It doesn’t seem surprising to me that she was disengaged from her family – they seemed to me to be totally ambivalent to her. As long as they didn’t have to deal with her (and they had Nick to do that for them) then they were happy! I do agree that she seemed to be getting back at her father by exposing him, but I can’t say I blamed her for doing so!


This is very interesting! =)  I agree with Janet. With such uncaring and uninvolved parents, it isn't all that surprising that Catherine was so bitter and hostile towards them. And when one's suffering from mental illness, one does get self absorbed. I think it's part of the illness. It's very hard to be happy for others or concerned about other people's lives when one's feeling so bad about oneself.
 

I liked the development of the relationship with Leo, it did capture that exquisite pain of first love, and was quite saddened to find that part two moved on and there was no mention of him until the terrible news at the end. I presumed about the AIDS testing section that Nick was between tests as HIV has an incubation period so a first negative test is not absolutely conclusive, you have to be tested again, I think it's 3 months after the first test. If you were clear at the first test, you could then be positive at the next even if you hadn't been exposed to the virus between. 
 
I felt that the novel was very British in it's style, similar to the Henry James, Wharton type which was often quoted. I often had a sort of  "Brideshead Revisited" in the back of my mind. Especially with the unrequited love/lust Nick had for Toby. I wonder how any of you readers from other countries found it, i guess there are probably parallels for US readers of the Wall Street/Reagan years?

 
Yes, I felt it odd when all of a sudden there was no mention of Leo. It was really upsetting to hear about him eventually. 
 
And that's a good point about the HIV tests and the 3 month incubation period, I didn't think of that.
 
Like I said before, I was too young in the 80s to know/remember about the 'yuppie years', but I do know that we also had that period of people being more well off and things looking really great in the 80s. I'm not sure to which extent, and I'm not sure how it would compa
re to the UK and US, but I would guess it wasn't to the same extent.
 

I totally agree. There were times when I was thinking “enough already with the descriptions - we get it!" It was odd, because in places I felt the writing was so tight – so I don’t know why he felt the need to give so much detail in those parts of the book.


Yes :giggle: I also wondered what was the point of all the details. I don't know Hollinghurst personally ( :D) but I don't think he seems like the person who loves to drone on things that he shouldn't really drone on. So I believe he did it on purpose. What the particular purpose was... I don't know! :unsure:

 

I understand why he spent so much time there at the beginning of the book, but in some respects it didn’t ring true that he would stay for so long. We had a house guest a few years ago who came to stay for a week and ended up staying for over two months, and in the end Peter had to ask him to leave – and it really ruined our relationship with him. His life has gone downhill since he left us (this was on the cards anyway and nothing to do with us asking him to leave) but although Peter keeps in touch by text we haven’t seen him since. I know it’s not quite the same as Nick was a friend of the son of the house and not the Gerard, but it didn’t feel believable that the relationship would last for as long as it did without it feeling that he’d outstayed his welcome!


Oooh, very awkward about the house guest, Janet! :empathy: 

I also found it odd that he kept living there for so long. I somehow have a feeling that rich people are rather particular about their belongings and their houses and they don't like people overextending their welcome. Why Nick wasn't kicked out earlier is beyond me. I don't think Feddens thinking of him as Catherine's 'keeper' could've been the only reason for keeping him on for so long, because surely they weren't so oblivious as to see that Nick actually seemed to have very little to do with Catherine, at all!

 

I’m glad about this – I couldn’t really make up my mind whether I thought people would enjoy it whilst I was reading it. Although it’s interesting that the four people who have read it and voted have all given it 3/5 and that none of us really loved… or really hated it.


I also thought it was rather curious everyone gave it 3/5. I almost gave it 4/5 but ended up with 3/5. Even if none of us really loved it, at least none of us hated it! =D And I think that what's more, it's the kind of book that at least I personally have thought about a lot after finishing it. It somehow comes to mind every now and then, and I think that's a sign of a good book =)

 

Do you know, I haven’t even looked at Hollinghurst’s other titles!  I should go and check them out.


Like I told you before, The Swimming-Pool Library by Hollinghurst is on the 1001 Must Read Books list and I've been really curious about it before, and I've wanted to read it for a long time, but Hollinghurst has always intimidated me. Now that I've read The Line of Beauty, he doesn't intimidate me anymore and now I can actually go ahead and start looking for a copy of TW-PL! =)
 
Here's the blurb in case anyone's interested (from amazon):
 
"On entering a London public lavatory in blithe pursuit of quick, anonymous sex, beautiful and roguish young aristocrat William Beckwith isconfronted instead with an ancient, doddering member of the British House of Lords who, after muttering an incoherent string of polite non sequiturs, promptly keels over at his feet in embarrassed but undeniable coronary arrest. After saving the old man's life, Will is invited to tea by the grateful and slightly senile Lord Nantwich, who, surprised by Will's impressive lineage and appalled at his state of idle unemployment, engages the young man to write the Nantwich life story. Thus begins the unusual relationship that forms the core of this funny, sad and beautifully written novel. The Swimming Pool Library weaves a rich and fascinating tapestry of Britain's gay subculture spanning pre-World War I through the sexually abandoned early '80s, stopping short at the doorstep of AIDS. Hollinghurst's prose is fresh, witty and wise, and his ever-surprising, sinuously unfurling story is told with insouciant grace and unabashed sexuality."
 
I have to say, I was initially interested in this book because of the title, alone :blush: The swimming-pool library. What the hell is that? I'm fascinated! :D I only read the blurb after finishing The Line of Beauty... And it sounds a lot like TLoB, with the same themes etc. I wonder if Hollinghurst is a one trick pony... But I'm still interested. Actually, if I'd read the blurb before reading TLoB, I may not have been that interested, but now that I've read and enjoyed TLoB, I'm definitely keen on reading this, too! :)

Anyways. February's over, so I do want to thank you Janet for choosing such a great yet possibly tricky theme. I've enjoyed the convos! (Although of course this doesn't mean this should be the end, people might still come to talk about the book and if so, I'm one to read one the comments :))

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Yes :giggle: I also wondered what was the point of all the details. I don't know Hollinghurst personally ( :D) but I don't think he seems like the person who loves to drone on things that he shouldn't really drone on. So I believe he did it on purpose. What the particular purpose was... I don't know!

:lol: It’s a shame you don’t know him personally – you could have asked him! :giggle:

 

Oooh, very awkward about the house guest, Janet!

 

I also found it odd that he kept living there for so long. I somehow have a feeling that rich people are rather particular about their belongings and their houses and they don't like people overextending their welcome. Why Nick wasn't kicked out earlier is beyond me. I don't think Feddens thinking of him as Catherine's 'keeper' could've been the only reason for keeping him on for so long, because surely they weren't so oblivious as to see that Nick actually seemed to have very little to do with Catherine, at all!

It was very unfortunate with K. It wasn’t the first time he’d been to stay with us. We didn’t ever discuss when he would go home, but he’d only ever stayed a maximum of a week before. As I said, it changed our relationship with him, which is a shame as we’d both known him since we were children.

 

Nick staying so long wasn’t really that believable, but it had to happen I guess, or the story wouldn’t have worked so well.

 

I also thought it was rather curious everyone gave it 3/5. I almost gave it 4/5 but ended up with 3/5. Even if none of us really loved it, at least none of us hated it! =D And I think that what's more, it's the kind of book that at least I personally have thought about a lot after finishing it. It somehow comes to mind every now and then, and I think that's a sign of a good book =)

It’s definitely one of those books that stays with one for a while – it’s definitely the sign of a good book. :)

 

Now that I've read The Line of Beauty, he doesn't intimidate me anymore and now I can actually go ahead and start looking for a copy of TW-PL! =)

 

Here's the blurb in case anyone's interested (from amazon):

 

"On entering a London public lavatory in blithe pursuit of quick, anonymous sex, beautiful and roguish young aristocrat William Beckwith isconfronted instead with an ancient, doddering member of the British House of Lords who, after muttering an incoherent string of polite non sequiturs, promptly keels over at his feet in embarrassed but undeniable coronary arrest. After saving the old man's life, Will is invited to tea by the grateful and slightly senile Lord Nantwich, who, surprised by Will's impressive lineage and appalled at his state of idle unemployment, engages the young man to write the Nantwich life story. Thus begins the unusual relationship that forms the core of this funny, sad and beautifully written novel. The Swimming Pool Library weaves a rich and fascinating tapestry of Britain's gay subculture spanning pre-World War I through the sexually abandoned early '80s, stopping short at the doorstep of AIDS. Hollinghurst's prose is fresh, witty and wise, and his ever-surprising, sinuously unfurling story is told with insouciant grace and unabashed sexuality."

 

I have to say, I was initially interested in this book because of the title, alone  The swimming-pool library. What the hell is that? I'm fascinated!  I only read the blurb after finishing The Line of Beauty... And it sounds a lot like TLoB, with the same themes etc. I wonder if Hollinghurst is a one trick pony... But I'm still interested. Actually, if I'd read the blurb before reading TLoB, I may not have been that interested, but now that I've read and enjoyed TLoB, I'm definitely keen on reading this, too!

I do like the sound of this. I’m definitely going to look out for this second hand.  Let's hope he's not a one trick pony!

 

Anyways. February's over, so I do want to thank you Janet for choosing such a great yet possibly tricky theme. I've enjoyed the convos! (Although of course this doesn't mean this should be the end, people might still come to talk about the book and if so, I'm one to read one the comments :))

Thanks. :)

 

Only one of the five people who voted for this title have read it, so I’m hoping the other four are still reading it – or maybe about to start it. Here’s hoping, any way.

 

Thanks, frankie.  :hug:

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I knew I ordered the book in time for the reading circle, I knew it had been delivered, but when it came time to read it could I find it?  No, not anywhere! However, last week I discovered it under my bed, where I had obviously carefully placed it to be read next...   So, very very late indeed, here are my thoughts!

 

Did you like the book?   What was it that you enjoyed?  If you didn't like the book, what were your reasons for disliking it?

 

I enjoyed the writing style of the book very much indeed and thought he evoked the feelings and emotions involved in various situations very well indeed.  One particular part stayed with me:

 

"Now I've shocked you," Paul said unapologetically.

"Not at all," said Nick, to whom life was a series of shocks, more or less well mastered.

 

I just loved that bit, I feel pretty much like that myself most of the time!

 

2. Did you have any expectations about the book before you started reading it, and if so, were they correct?

 

I didn't have any particular expectations about the book, and don't think I had heard of the author before it was nominated.

 

3. Who was your favourite character...?

 

I did actually like Nick, and I enjoyed the characters of Rachel and Toby too.

 

4. ...and your least favourite?

 

There were so many unlikeable characters that I can't really choose!

 

5. Was there a particular part you enjoyed more than the rest?

 

Like others, I enjoyed the last part of the book the most.

 

6. Was this the first book you've read in this genre / by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

I enjoyed the style of writing so much that I probably will read something else by the author.

 

7. Were there any parts/ideas you struggled with?

 

The sheer amount of casual sex/fantasy/lusting got a bit boring for me.

 

8. Overall, was reading the book an enjoyable experience?

 

Overall, yes, it was.  I enjoyed it more and more as it went on, and I think I might read it again just kind of skipping over the sex bits and concentrating on the rest of the writing.

 

9. Would you recommend the book and if so to whom?

 

Much though I enjoyed it, I can't actually think of anyone I know to whom I could recommend it.

 

10. Was Nick made a scapegoat or did he deserve his treatment by the Feddens at the end of the book?

 

I certainly thought he was made a scapegoat, but I didn't find it surprising; I expected the family/social group to close ranks when things went wrong, and think that was quite realistic.

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I knew I ordered the book in time for the reading circle, I knew it had been delivered, but when it came time to read it could I find it? No, not anywhere! However, last week I discovered it under my bed, where I had obviously carefully placed it to be read next... So, very very late indeed, here are my thoughts!

:lol: I’m glad it turned up. It’s really frustrating when that happens, isn’t it!

 

 

Did you like the book? What was it that you enjoyed? If you didn't like the book, what were your reasons for disliking it?

 

I enjoyed the writing style of the book very much indeed and thought he evoked the feelings and emotions involved in various situations very well indeed. One particular part stayed with me:

 

"Now I've shocked you," Paul said unapologetically.

"Not at all," said Nick, to whom life was a series of shocks, more or less well mastered.

 

I just loved that bit, I feel pretty much like that myself most of the time!

I don’t remember that line, but you’re right – it’s a great one! :)

 

4. ...and your least favourite?

 

There were so many unlikeable characters that I can't really choose!

:lol: Yes, they weren’t very likeable overall, were they?!

 

 

6. Was this the first book you've read in this genre / by this author, has it encouraged you to read more?

 

I enjoyed the style of writing so much that I probably will read something else by the author.

That’s good. I hope you enjoy any you do read. I’m not actively planning to read any but if I come across any on my travels I might try another.

 

10. Was Nick made a scapegoat or did he deserve his treatment by the Feddens at the end of the book?

 

I certainly thought he was made a scapegoat, but I didn't find it surprising; I expected the family/social group to close ranks when things went wrong, and think that was quite realistic.

I agree. I think any other ending would have been far less believable.

 

Thanks for joining in. :)

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I've either missed Jänet's 2.3. reply to my post or have forgotten to get to it. Sorry! :blush:
 
 

:lol: It’s a shame you don’t know him personally – you could have asked him! :giggle:


Well there's still time. I wonder which bars or pubs he goes to, I might go in one and accidentally on purpose bump into him and start a convo on it :giggle2:

 

It was very unfortunate with K. It wasn’t the first time he’d been to stay with us. We didn’t ever discuss when he would go home, but he’d only ever stayed a maximum of a week before. As I said, it changed our relationship with him, which is a shame as we’d both known him since we were children.


It's a shame it changed your relationship with him, especially when you'd known him from your childhood. Maybe he'll contact you later in life and it will all be cleared up. I don't know if you would be up for that, but you never know what happens.
 

Nick staying so long wasn’t really that believable, but it had to happen I guess, or the story wouldn’t have worked so well.


Yes I suppose that's one good reason, although I guess I'm a demanding reader because I wouldn't like that to be the reason. He Hollinghurst could've figured something out and not use something so unplausible (?) to make the story work.
 
 
 

I knew I ordered the book in time for the reading circle, I knew it had been delivered, but when it came time to read it could I find it?  No, not anywhere! However, last week I discovered it under my bed, where I had obviously carefully placed it to be read next...   So, very very late indeed, here are my thoughts!


Oh dear! You had the book under your bed all this while, when you were searching for it with cats and dogs?! Oh man that must've been so annoying. I'm happy you found it in the end :) And enjoyed it! Imagine if after all this trouble you would've hated it :D
 

I enjoyed the writing style of the book very much indeed and thought he evoked the feelings and emotions involved in various situations very well indeed.  One particular part stayed with me:
 
"Now I've shocked you," Paul said unapologetically.
"Not at all," said Nick, to whom life was a series of shocks, more or less well mastered.
 
I just loved that bit, I feel pretty much like that myself most of the time!


That's very good! It's been so long since I read it that I wouldn't have remembered it... I think I sometimes read too quickly, I should pause more to actually 'taste' the words and sentences.

 

I enjoyed the style of writing so much that I probably will read something else by the author.


Yay, that's promising! :) I'm happy this thread has bumped up, because I'm moving to another city and now I will definitely go and see if my new home city's library has copies of Hollinghurst's books. My current local library didn't have any other books by him in English, only this particular title :(

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It's a shame it changed your relationship with him, especially when you'd known him from your childhood. Maybe he'll contact you later in life and it will all be cleared up. I don't know if you would be up for that, but you never know what happens.

Peter's still in touch with him via text, but very sporadically. I don't think he'll ever come here again - he's not really fit enough to travel any longer.

 

He Hollinghurst could've figured something out and not use something so unplausible (?) to make the story work.

Implausible, but I'm only telling you because of the question mark and because I know you like to know. :)  And yes, he probably should/could have thought of something else to explain it.

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Peter's still in touch with him via text, but very sporadically. I don't think he'll ever come here again - he's not really fit enough to travel any longer.

Oh well at least the lines of communication are open, maybe some day you'll get an explanation or perhaps an apology or something in return.

 

Implausible, but I'm only telling you because of the question mark and because I know you like to know. :)  And yes, he probably should/could have thought of something else to explain it.

Thank you, I do want to know! :) It's a very new word for me, I've seen and heard it before but have only used it a few times myself, but never before in the 'negative', i.e. 'implausible'. :) (And was too lazy to google :blush: )

Edited by frankie

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