The Stranger's Child

Alan Hollinghurst

The Stranger's Child

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. 4.0 out of 5 based on 12 reviews
The Stranger's Child

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre General Fiction
Format Hardback
Pages 576
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication June 2011
ISBN 978-0330483247
Publisher Picador
 

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.

John Crace's Digested Read | Guardian

Reviews

The Independent

Richard Canning

It is a rare thing to read a novel buoyed up by the certainty that it will stand among the year's best, but rarer still to become confident of its value in decades to come … a remarkable, unmissable achievement … truly extraordinary.

17/06/2011

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The Times

Neel Mukherjee

With this book it becomes clear how unified Hollinghurst’s aesthetic has been so far. And aesthetics, always a matter of ideology, point to the fiercely yet subtly political heart of the book: in a daring act of appropriation he has interpolated within a history of textual ellipses, lacunae and silences a secret history of homosexuality, of what can and cannot be articulated at different historical junctures.

18/06/2011

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The Spectator

Sam Leith

This is an exercise in realism of a dazzlingly high order: it really does seem to be observed rather than imagined … an extraordinary achievement.

02/07/2011

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The Observer

Hari Kunzru

Throughout his career as a novelist, one of Hollinghurst's preoccupations has been ... to bring the homosexual tradition in English culture out of the shadows. Yet in this affecting, erudite novel, he transcends what might have been a purely backward-looking project, a filling in of the gay blanks. It is the signal achievement of The Stranger's Child to show that, despite the silence in which relationships like that of Cecil and George were shrouded, their influence has echoed on through the years, as an unconscious pattern for other friendships and love affairs.

25/06/2011

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The Independent on Sunday

Amanda Craig

... the narrative [is] largely carried by dialogue, much of it so freighted with irony as to be a delight in itself ... The drawback is that, largely deprived of Hollinghurst's gorgeous descriptive voice, Daphne is not as well-drawn as The Line of Beauty's Catherine Fedden, and Cecil is a figure of indifference compared with The Line of Beauty's agonised Nick Guest. Aesthetically, The Stranger's Child is probably the best novel this year so far, but it fails to move Hollinghurst on to the next level.

26/06/2011

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The Evening Standard

Nicola Shulman

This subject — of memory and memorial, and the fates of the keepers of the flame — has been done before, and well, as the author acknowledges. But it may never have been done as amusingly. Moreover, Hollinghurst's genius for literary pastiche is so developed that his invented productions — Cecil's poems, Dudley and Daphne's memoirs — aren't just note-perfect exercises in wit and accidental self-exposure, they're actually quite accomplished on their own terms.

23/06/2011

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The Daily Telegraph

Keith Miller

… sleek, seductive and a little sly … while some passages are so arch you could slip on a toga and process in triumph through them, there’s also a lot that is purely and simply very funny.

17/06/2011

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The Guardian

Theo Tait

[It] falls somewhat short of Hollinghurst's best work — The Swimming Pool Library, The Folding Star and The Line of Beauty. Unlike them, it's merely very good: it doesn't leave you dazed, page after page, with the brilliance, wit and subtlety of its perceptions. Is this an ungrateful line of criticism? Probably: The Stranger's Child will no doubt be one of the best novels published this year.

17/06/2011

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The Sunday Telegraph

David Robson

It is all highly entertaining and, as always with Hollinghurst, the dialogue is immaculate and the characterisation first class … The ending disappoints; indeed, one of the structural drawbacks of the novel is that the various biographers of Valance are progressively less interesting than the writer whose life they are trying to exhume. But every Alan Hollinghurst novel is a cause for celebration, and this spacious, elegant satire is no exception.

26/06/2011

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The Financial Times

Jason Cowley

Hollinghurst is essentially a writer of the long moment and of the extended set-piece: the party, the country house weekend, the dinner party. If he has a weakness it is a tendency to over-describe; to seek to convey each and every subtle shift in mood, tone, inflection and nuance. The overall effect is charming and you admire the artistry but it can also be enervating...

24/06/2011

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The New Statesman

Leo Robson

In some ways, The Stranger's Child is a full-dress display of Hollinghurst's virtuosity, as a lyricist and an elegist, as a writer of set pieces, as a pasticheur, as a describer of homosexual longing and early-summer rapture. Yet it is also a broken-backed and anti-dramatic novel that contains a good deal of complacent brushstrokes next to the beautiful ones.

04/07/2011

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The Literary Review

Jonathan Beckman

Damaged … There is a certain amount of slovenly plotting … The Stranger’s Child is also curiously uninterested in history … too often [Hollinghurst] overburdens his conversations with stultifying commentary.

01/07/2011

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