It has been well over two months now since I started this blog, and I find my passion for sharing my literary adventures grow stronger everyday. With each turn of a page, my mind is racing with ideas on how best to express that experience. Taking into consideration the advice I received from a professional editor, I am giving myself the permission to delve deeper into the books that I read, and provide greater insight on what makes it great (or not) and how it made me feel.
I will, of course, attempt to be non-offending or controversial. But in the case of this book, controversial is the essence of the story.
Winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Alan Hollinghurst’s fourth novel “The Line of Beauty” is filled with style, wit, drama, and an unforgettable main character.
Set in the 1980’s London, England during the reign of Margaret Thatcher a.k.a The Iron Lady, the book tells the story of a young gay man living vicariously through the rich Fedden family.
The main character, Nick Guest, was called upon to look after his friend Toby’s younger sister Cat, who has a habit of cutting herself. The Fedden family, comprised of Rachel (stay -at-home mom) and Gerald (father, local MP) are going on vacation in France. Upon their return, Nick is encouraged to stay indefinitely since Cat has grown an attachment to him, and managed to stay out of trouble. It is through this arrangement that Nick witnesses first hand how the upper class interacts with the world. Sex, money, power: it was everything they wanted.
Nick has secretly held a candle of affection for Toby since their time in Oxford College of London. The fact that his friend is straight is not the reason why they will never be together, but the truth is we can relate to this scenario: haven’t we all at one point in our lives yearned-for a friend even though that feeling may never be mutual? While it is clear the family knows Nick is gay, they are only “OK” with it so long as that sort of love is not given a name, or said out loud.
When Toby turned 21, the family organized a birthday party with their closest friends and political allies. A chance encounter, Nick meets Wani: the only child of a successful Lebanese entrepreneur who is engaged to be married. This is merely a facade, as the two men gradually explores an intimate, physical relationship.
Without further giving away the story, the book moves along through endless parties mixed with social/political observations as well as the madness that comes from immense wealth. It all falls apart in the end, when the patriarch of the family gets embroiled in a scandal that will change their relationships, both good and bad. The author provides plenty of sensory stimulants, the pacing is even from beginning to end and never feeling disjointed.
The booked was adapted into a three-part miniseries by Andrew Davies for BBC in 2006. While it failed to capture the heart and soul of the story, it is the perfect visual companion.
The title of the book refers to many things: aesthetic lines, the defined muscles on a man’s body, and Nick’s drug of choice.
Personally, the most beautiful line of all is the title of this post (which is also found in the book): the simple truth that you don’t fall in love with someone because they are beautiful.