‘The Line Of Beauty’ by Alan Hollinghurst is a novel which was published in 2004, and enjoyed a great variety of stellar reviews and went on to win The Booker Prize, with most of the reviewers raving about the freshness and elegance of its prose, characters, setting, sexual and philosophical arguments.
As I stated in my earlier review of ‘The Swimming Pool Library’ – which is another famous novel by Alan Hollinghurst, that Hollinghurst is a man who brought the gay novel into modern form, texture, and context, another such man was Edmund White but his books didn’t seem to dig a deeper ground as did Alan’s.
Many years later, who knew that a writer like Alan Hollinghurst would come up with an idea and eventually a novel, which would wear the crown and prove to be better than ‘The Swimming Pool Library’, an unbelievable expectation from an author who might have stereotyped himself and exhausted his material.
Alan Hollinghurst cleverly and skilfully discounts and confounds the imaginary expectations of many such people by writing a novel based on the similar themes on which he has earlier written and talked about, that is the ‘Homosexuality’ and its people’ throughout different historical settings in the United Kingdom.
‘The Line of Beauty’ takes place in London of 1983, 1986, and 1987, when Nicholas Guest usually known as ‘Nick’, moves into the grand residence of Gerald Fedden, a British Tory MP and his family – Catherine, Rachel, and Toby.
Nick is a homosexual who longs to have a sexual blossom and fulfil his long unfulfilled desire to lose his virginity since the days of Oxford. He discovers his passion in Leo, a handsome man who gave an advertisement in the news paper, and further in the beautiful Wani, the novel evokes the intricacies of an epoch, it takes you through the AIDS crisis, homosexual discrimination and stereotype, in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, while capturing the rich setting of the city of London.
Hollinghurst is a writer of keen observation and subtle commentary on the buzzing aristocratic life in London, which was even beautifully written in The Swimming Pool Library, but a notch higher in this piece of work.
Firstly, I never expected any contemporary novel to equal the beauty of prose language which is displayed in The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald or Ian McEwan’s Atonement, ‘The Line of Beauty’ not only gives us a prose to drool over, the usage of words is so magical and harmonious that even though the words are the common, they seem to revive the English language in a way I have ever seen any other novel do, sentences and words evoke all sorts of emotions and harmonies in and of the heart.
From its premise, it might seem a similar novel to ‘The Swimming Pool Library’ but I can speak for my case, the moment I finished the first few pages of ‘The Line of Beauty’, I knew at once that this novel is going to portray a much broader vision, and yes, the novel is not only about the homosexual society, but about the turbulent Thatcher’s Britain with the AIDS Crisis.
But where the novel succeeds and finds its soul is the human aspect of the story, the characters with hundreds of delicate intricacies and shades of simple and shallow life, uncover a philosophy rarely discovered in modern literature especially the relationship between Nick and Catherine, it is sublimely written and very heart touching. What strikes the reader is the writer’s sympathy of his own characters, and the love simmering underneath it, the beauty is that, his characters remain consistent till the very last sentence. I personally can never forget Nick, I fell in love with the way he is written, and I surely have an everlasting sympathy for him.
‘The Line of Beauty’ is a novel of philosophical, subliminal depth and beauty that has a sacred prose with a poetic voice rarely heard or written, it has a harmony that doesn’t only satiate the intellect, but touches the reader’s soul in a way many other novels haven’t.
‘The Line of Beauty’ is a novel to die for and a symphonic achievement that showcases delicate artistic taste and sense.