In the opening section of The Stranger's Child
, Alan Hollinghurst jumps into the milieu of some of the greatest novels in English, the end of the dress-for-dinner era that came just before World War I. His fine and elegant writing seems to be more than an homage to novels such as Brideshead Revisited
or Howard's End
; the precision of his language allows Hollinghurst to tease out what his characters are actually thinking even as what comes out of their mouths is the proper, dining-room appropriate thing to say.
The nuance he achieves seems at once realistic and modernistic - there are worlds of meaning hiding behind the most ordinary gestures. For example, in one interaction between young George Sawle and his Cambridge crush, the budding poet Cecil Valance, the two appear to be conventional school chums, but below the table they are engaged in a lusty...
Beyond the Book
"What do you think, Ralph?" said George. "For or against the egregious grotesqueries of the Victorians?"...
"I suppose what I feel," said Revel, after a minute, "well, the grotesqueries are what I like best, really, and the more egregious the better."
"What? Not St. Pancras," said George. "Not Keble College?"
"Oh, when I first saw St. Pancras," said Revel, "I thought it was the most beautiful building on earth."
The rise and fall and rise again of high Victorian style marks the passage of a tumultuous century in The Stranger's Child. From St. Pancras railway station in London to the fictional Corley Court, the fate of exuberant Victorian ornamentation tracks the evolution of aesthetic...