Book Review – The Line of Beauty

by Alan Hollinghurst (Picador) ISBN 978-0-330-48321-6

The title of this 2004 Man Booker Prize winner refers to the aesthetics theory by William Hogarth on the Line of Beauty, the S-shaped curved line that signifies liveliness and activity and excites the viewer.

In the early eighties middle class Nick Guest moves in with Tory MP Gerald Fedden and his wealthy wife. At the same time he embarks on his first homosexual relationship with Leo, a black council worker.

Over the years Nick becomes quite involved with the Feddens; he even joins them in their French holiday home accompanied by his secret lover, a young millionaire. By the end of the decade the tragic developments concerning his lovers and the Feddens’ secrets are exposed. Somehow the consequences for the rich and privileged seem to be less severe than for Nick.

Intellectually I get the contrast between material wealth and aesthetics that Hollinghurst exposes, but I never felt it. In 501 pages Nick hasn’t come any closer to me than on the first page. Not being British I might have missed the satire about the eighties that some critics rave about.

The writing is beautiful; the story flows along and although nothing much happens it is somehow easy to keep reading. It feels aesthetically pleasing; Hollinghurst must have found a way to incorporate Hogarth’s Line of Beauty in it.

Josine Overdevest 


Posted on: 2nd November 2012