- Reading level: 18+ years
- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Picador (1 April 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0330483218
- ISBN-13: 978-0330483216
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.3 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,20,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Line of Beauty Paperback – 1 Apr 2005
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Luminous... [an] astonishingly Jamesian novel, a crafty, glittering, sidelong bid by a contemporary master of English prose to be considered heir to James himself. For a novel that spans only four years, 1983 to 1987, it seems to encompass a world as capacious as any in a James novel. Source: The Times
There is something memorable on every page... there is much to savour in The Line of Beauty, not least its humour, a shivering yet morally exacting satire that leaves no character untouched. Source: Times Literary Supplement
Superb . . . Alan Hollinghurst is in the prime of his writing life, and the immaculate rolling cadences of his new novel are right now the keenest pleasure English prose has to offer. Source: Daily Telegraph
Quite simply a joy to read. It is solid and traditional, beautifully crafted. A quiet masterpiece. Source: Scotland on Sunday
From the Author
Alan Hollinghurst is the author of several novels including The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star and The Spell. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, and he was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994. He lives in London.See all Product description
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter mobile phone number.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
But in my case, although the book took 5 days to be delivered, it was brand new.
It was under an offer, for just Rs. 88 and now I am in awe with it.
Very nicely printed and crisp pages increases the reading pleasure.
Go for it, even if it is worth <200. Great version by Picador.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Middle-class but upwardly hopeful Nick Guest comes to Tory MP Gerald Fedden's house first as a vacation houseminder, and ostensible watcher of the unstable daughter Catherine (Cat). Nick is in pursuit of beauty of a certain type. Beauty is in many things, but Nick is enthralled by beauty as manifested in privileged lives and its beautiful things.
Invited to stay after the vacation as a useful dogsbody, he gets to be the hanger on of wealth, and dabbler in their society. Always obsequious, he becomes a foil for family head and MP Gerald's boasting, a constant reassurance and dutiful quasi-son to the mother Rachel (he's much more sympathetic to her than to his own mother, who he is vaguely ashamed of) and a companion and minder to the manic-depressive Cat.
Nick's biggest problem, as a character, is that he is such a sycophantic bluenose. With his labor friends, he reviles Thatcher, and comments negatively on Gerald. To Gerald and his friends and relations, he acts the supportive, respectful Tory. This chameleon-like character makes him hard to respect.
Supposedly working on getting an advance degree on Henry James at UCL in London, he seems more in pursuit of love. But after dabbling in a relationship with middle class clerk - who it is foreshadowed will dump him because he has no money -- he becomes a kept boy for a rich Lebanese millionaire, and former Oxford classmate Wani Ouradi. Nick's finances are tied to his tentative relationship with Ouradi; his living and personal situation tied to his relationship with the Feddens. While other rich companions from his graduate class are starting lives, making names and fortunes, middle-class Nick's can't leave the mein of his college companions but can't afford it himself, (he was a scholarship student at Oxford) so remains stuck in sycophantic roles to stay in that social set.
Nick was enthralled with Henry James, but the real line of beauty is more enthralling than its fictional dissection. Instead Nick helps start up Wani's magazine/film company OGEE (named after the line of beauty arch). But Wani is something of a dilettante, more interested in cocaine, porn and sex. Nick's job is something of a pose. Wani goes through a lot of cocaine, a lot of rent boys, a lot of sex with Nick. He gives Nick a salary and car, while they do tacit work on the magazine and a film script. But Wani openly reviles Nick as just another one of the many paid sluts who takes his money. Nick basically is a respectable looking, safe, but hidden sexual companion, no more acknowledged than the anonymous rent boys.
Nick constantly professes love to his lovers and adopted family. But none take Him seriously as if sensing his shallowness. Indeed, often the sentence after Nick professes love to someone, he wonders at himself for doing so. Whatever these relationships are, they aren't love. His first "lover", it is hinted at, trades Nick up for someone with more funds, before Nick snags Wani, wanting to love him for his physical beauty, even knowing Wani's faults. There's convenience, and a bit of regard, but no real tie.
Similarly, Nick tells Catherine that he loves her family, but he's there for a job as well as a minder to Catherine, a general dogsbody, and an impressionable and appreciative mirror reflecting their wealth. Because Nick loves the Fedden's privileged life, he gives it more brilliance, a reflective glow. Therein lies his real usefulness. Oxford educated and a quasi Don, he offers a tacit legitimacy in his otherwise middle class admiration that someone else wouldn't be able to offer (even perhaps get in the door). Gerald shows off to him, and uses him as a verification of their own wealth and privilege. Nick's basically just a different kind of slut for the Feddens.
Meant to be a sort of touchstone, Catherine reviles pretense, babbles of speaking truths. She's angry that Nick doesn't leave Wani because their relationship must be kept hidden. When he tells her he stays with Wani because he finds him so physically beautiful -- she tells him that people shouldn't be loved because they are beautiful. That people are beautiful because we love them.
Nick only usefulness requires being a convenient reflective foil for beauty, but that means keeping ugliness hidden -- Gerald's indiscretions, Wani destructive lifestyle, etc. When Catherine, in a manic phase, blurts out some of these truths to the press, Nick's only usefulness then is as a sort of scapegoat. Wani, now dying of AIDS, pays Nick off in his will, but never speaks of love. And Nick discovers there was never any love in these relationships, nor any beauty. But has he learned his shallow quest was in vain?
The story ends in ambiguity. Both Nick's lovers succumb to AIDS. We don't know if Nick is HIV positive. In the film, the impression is left that he has been lucky in that, even as he still searches, clueless, for beauty. In the book, which goes a bit more darkly into Nick's insincerities and obsequiousness, Nick believes he will become positive as well. Both end with Nick, and the rest of the characters not having learned much. Adversity hasn't made them better. Rather their own flaws have brought them all down. So it is hardly a positive story. Even Catherine, who reveals others truths and secrets, does it from a manic sense of mischievousness, and not from any sense of moral certainty. (One telling scene is of her sitting in her Uncle's French manoir telling a multi-millionaire, who didn't contribute more than fifty pence to a church restoration that he has too much money. When he asks her (and she has a significant inheritance) what she gave, she claims she had no money on her.)
Some reviewers, and I think the author, make a thing of that Nick's troubles may have to do with homophobia. I didn't see that. The gap between Nick and the Feddens, even between Nick as a potential "mate" for Wani was more financial and cultural than gender oriented. Nick was a hanger on, a sycophant, a leech, because he thirsted after what he saw as a beautiful lifestyle. Gerald was brought down by a financial scandal, then by a petty affair with his secretary. When the news of Nick's sexuality came out in the papers, it wasn't as if everyone in Gerald's circle didn't know Nick was gay. Nick never made a secret of it, except to Wani's father. Gerald flies in a fury at Nick because he thinks that Nick told his daughter about Gerald's affair with his secretary, that Nick had secret knowledge of. And that Cat blabbed to the papers. Without that, Gerald might have survived the financial scandal. But Cat discerned that herself.
In his rage Gerald includes a lot of slurs against gays, as well as against middle class opportunists, etc, when he reviles Nick. Certainly Nick's being gay was a central part of his life, but I don't think it was all that central to the plot's denouement. To me, that had to do more with character, not gender orientation. Nick's problems were because he didn't build a life of his own, but instead based his life on being a hanger on for others, attracted by a lifestyle he had no legitimate ownership of. His father was a buyer and seller of antiquities, a caretaker of ancient clocks in mansions. Nick didn't want to come to the mansions merely as a winder of clocks, or to even buy and sell the clocks. He wanted to live in the mansions.
In the end, he might have learned that beautiful things don't necessarily make for beautiful people. And even with beautiful people, that beauty is only skin deep. But that too is left ambiguous. These characters end the book no better, in most cases much worse, and with no more insight, than when they entered. It's a hard book to like, for that reason. But the characters are so clearly drawn, (even if they are rather shallow, unworthy characters) that you want something more to have happened. I think the author has a dislike for the period and these characters, and doesn't believe anything good should come out of it. One of the most striking scenes is when the housekeeper tells Nick she always suspected he was no good. Nick is stunned, but as reader we have to be in tacit agreement, having seen the false part Nick has often played in all his relationships. Still, the lack of any positive resolution means that the characters stay in your head because you wish it ended otherwise.
And readers of all kinds should read this. Don't be put off by the novel of manners feel of it, because this is subversive, and in its subversion is its emotional depth. High school students should be reading this book for its deep reach into the world of hidden lives, the random judgments we feel entitled to make.
Important and wonderful book.
As a social satire the book is brilliant, never veering off into the trap of easy stereotypes, but instead subtly skewering them with biting humor and precision. The book manages to capture a wide range of topics from class structure, to the division of race and sexuality, and although the ripple effects of the plot have devastating consequences, I still felt a sense of hope by the end.
It's a novel that hopefully will trancend the confines of a "gay literature" label, and simply be remembered as a great and superbly written work.