The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The ambitious novel, The Stranger's Child, by Alan Hollinghurst, spanning from 1913 through 2008, chased the shadow cast by a domineering war hero-poet, Cecil Valance through the debates of his literary merits and uncovering every details of his life. His short life had left much holes in his biography and in the following decades, some biographers tried to fill in the details, or leave some out, and in those fact-gathering processes we were presented a gallery of people who had crossed path with him, and the younger generations from his extended families, and people were were obsessed with him.
Hollinghurst did a wonderful job in describing the characters in social contexts, particularly in those long begone eras. Perhaps, the early parts seemed more engaging or endearing, because the main characters then seemed more sympathetic and romantic, whilst when we learn more about them in the consequent decades, the more foolish and absurd they seemed to modern readers, and precisely because of that, Hollinghurst succeeded in being an impartial observer, instead of presenting something rosier than it was of those long-gone eras, and avoided sentimentality.
He buried numerous details in many places and decades for different characters and readers to discover; it not the poet's secret itself but what portion of which, and when and how it might be discovered proved most engaging and propelled plot forward.
This book, however, would only be interesting to the people who are curious about British life of certain people in recent historical settings. More important, Hollinghurst wrote about gay people, and it was a bit bizarre that almost all the male characters in this novel had, has or ready to have an affair or sex with other males. Ultimately it was hilarious. However, it might be true, considering the English public school tradition. If you can overlook this particularity or can savor it, then this book is quite enjoyable.
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