The Sparsholt Affair: Book summary and reviews of The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

The Sparsholt Affair

A Novel

by Alan Hollinghurst

The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst X
The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2018
    432 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A masterly new novel that spans seven transformative decades in England--from the 1940s to the present--as it plumbs the richly complex relationships of a remarkable family.

In 1940, David Sparsholt arrives at Oxford to study engineering, though his sights are set on joining the Royal Air Force. Handsome, athletic, charismatic, he is unaware of his effect on others--especially on Evert Dax, the lonely son of a celebrated novelist who is destined to become a writer himself. With the world at war, and the Blitz raging in London, Oxford nevertheless exists at a strange remove: a place of fleeting beauty--and secret liaisons. A friendship develops between these two young men that will have unexpected consequences as the novel unfolds.

Alan Hollinghurst's new novel explores the legacy of David Sparsholt across three generations, on friends and family alike; we experience through its characters changes in taste, morality, and private life in a sequence of vividly rendered episodes: a Sparsholt holiday in Cornwall; eccentric social gatherings at the Dax family home; the adventures of David's son Johnny, a painter in 1970s London; the push and pull in a group of friends brought together by art, literature, and love. And evoking the increasing openness of gay life, The Sparsholt Affair becomes a meditation on human transience, even as it poignantly expresses the longing for permanence and continuity. Witty, tender, epic in scope yet rich in observation, this is a dazzling novel of fathers and sons; of family and home by a writer hailed by The Wall Street Journal as "one of the best novelists at work today."

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse Review
"Beginning with the Second World War, The Sparsholt Affair effectively traces the slow progress gay rights have made in public consciousness in the UK. The story follows a set of friends at Oxford (the opening section that details their time there is the best part of the novel) and follows them and their children over subsequent decades.

Hollinghurst is a master at the finely crafted sentence and the novel is full of them. Yet the narrative is sometimes so wrapped up in this rich imagery that it sacrifices character development in the process. As a result, even though something called a 'Sparsholt Affair' about a gay MP's scandal is obliquely referred to over and over again as a way of keeping suspense, the reader is not fully invested in the characters to really find out what happened.

This book will delight Hollinghurst fans and lovers of slowly unfolding novels but might try the patience of others."


Other Reviews
"Starred Review. In this magnificent novel, Hollinghurst is at the height of his powers." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. Superlatives are made to describe this extraordinary work of fiction ... Hollinghurst is especially good at evoking yearning, and, indeed, his novel will inarguably leave his readers yearning for more." - Booklist

"Starred Review. A novel full of life and perception; you end the book not minding that the actual Sparsholt affair gets just the barest of outlines." - Kirkus Reviews

"An unashamedly readable novel, undoubtedly the work of a master." - The Observer (UK)

"With an astonishing responsiveness to light, sound, painting, the past, social nuance, music, sensation, buildings inside and out, the inner life of sentence, he is saturated in the literary past but unhindered by it." - The London Review of Books (UK)

"Dazzlingly good: the best new novel I've read this year." - The Spectator (UK)

"Hollinghurst's novels remind you of the deep pleasures of reading novels. Such is the penetrating clarity of his perception, his ability to convey many layers of experience at once." - London Evening Standard (UK)

"Audacious, ambitious ... Hollinghurst's prose delights." - The Times (UK)

"Atmospheric. . . richly textured and alive with ironic wit ... An ambitious novel of family, sexuality and art." -The Sunday Times (UK)

"Without a doubt, both a highlight of Hollinghurst's career, and one of the best books of the year." - The Independent (UK)

"This book moves from strength to strength. The immense assurance of the writing, the deep knowledge of the settings and periods in which the story unfolds, the mingling of cruel humour and lyrical tenderness, the insatiable interest in human desire from its most refined to its most brutally carnal, grip you as tightly as any thriller." - The Guardian (UK)

"It would be hard, impossible, to over-praise this novel." - The Sunday Herald (UK) "The Sparsholt Affair is rich in the sense of felt life. Hollinghurst moves with practised ease from moments of pain and puzzlement to scenes rich in comedy, painting a portrait of the ebbs and flows of ideas and moral principles... Well-imagined and well-realised." - The Scotsman (UK)

"Pure Hollinghurst: a beautifully observed portrait of men and manners. A touchingly upbeat tale, and the dialogue is a joy." - Irish Mail on Sunday "The Best New Fiction"

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Author Information

Alan Hollinghurst Author Biography

panmacmillan.com

Alan Hollinghurst was born in Stroud in Gloucestershire, England in 1954 and was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was on the staff of the Times Literary Supplement from 1982 to 1995. His novels include: The Swimming Pool Library, The Folding Star, The Spell, The Line of Beauty, and The Stranger's Child. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994 and again in 2011, and won it in 2004 for The Line of Beauty. The Sparsholt Affair is due to publish in 2018. He lives in London.

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Other books by Alan Hollinghurst at BookBrowse
  • The Stranger's Child jacket
  • The Line of Beauty jacket
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