The Spell

      Alan Hollinghurst
The Spell

Here are the interlocking affairs of four men: Robin Woodfield, an architect in his late forties trying to build an idyllic life in Dorset with his young lover, Justin, a would-be actor increasingly disenchanted with the countryside; Robin's attractive and dangerously volatile twenty-two-year-old son Danny; and Justin's former boyfriend Alex, whose life is unexpectedly transformed by a night of house music and a tab of ecstasy.As each falls under the spell of romance or drugs, country living or rough trade, a richly ironic picture emerges of the illusions of love, and of the clashing imperatives of modern gay life: the hunger for contact and the fear of commitment, the need for permanence and the continual disruptions of sex. Ultimately, The Spell details the restlessness of every human heart.

Read online

    The Sparsholt Affair

      Alan Hollinghurst
The Sparsholt Affair

In 1940, Evert Dax and David Sparsholt, two young men from very different backgrounds, meet at Oxford University. Dax is a second year student reading English, coming from a rackety upper middle class background; Sparsholt is from a humbler Midlands community and is reading engineering, a young man whose good looks and fine figure have proved highly attractive to his peers.

This time is a unique one in the history of the university: with military call-up at twenty, soon brought forward to nineteen, almost all students come up to Oxford knowing that they will only have a year or so of study. A sense of futility is mixed with one of recklessness. All life after dusk is lived under black-out, encouraging and covering what would normally be impossible liaisons. What happens to these two men in this year will affect many lives and will set in motion the mystery at the heart of The Sparsholt Affair.

Alan Hollinghurst's masterly novel takes us through several generations and across key periods of uncertainty and change in British society. From the darkest days of the Second World War, it moves to the changing world of the a socially and sexually liberated London of the 1960s, before landing in the mid-1970s, with the three-day week, fuel shortages and power cuts. The reverberations continue through the next generation in the 1990s before reaching a conclusion in the present decade, a world of new media and new ideas.

Throughout the novel there is also an examination of the visual and aesthetic, looking at what it is to be Modern, through modernist architecture and abstract painting: we witness buildings being destroyed and replaced; we watch works of art go in and out of fashion.

Featuring a remarkable cast of characters, The Sparsholt Affair is both thought-provoking and highly entertaining, a novel in which children are connected by the acts of their parents and individuals are both damaged and saved by the changing attitudes to sexuality, privacy and intimacy.

Read online

    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.

Read online

    The Swimming-Pool Library

      Alan Hollinghurst
The Swimming-Pool Library

A literary sensation and bestseller both in England and America, The Swimming-Pool Library is an enthralling, darkly erotic novel of homosexuality before the scourge of AIDS; an elegy, possessed of chilling clarity, for ways of life that can no longer be lived with impunity. "Impeccably composed and meticulously particular in its observation of everything" (Harpers & Queen), it focuses on the friendship of two men: William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, an old Africa hand, searching for someone to write his biography and inherit his traditions.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read online