May 14, 2012

three-bullet book review

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst (2011)

  • Follows fictional First World War poet Cecil Valance through juvenilia, initial fame, early death, canonization, standardization, neglect and revival.
  • Casts aspersions on the intent, utility and reliability of literary history, especially biographical criticism and literary memoir.
  • Hollinghurst's fictional reconstructions of English queer history neatly maps the closet's shifting borders, though I find I still prefer Sarah Waters. 


Yes, if the basic premise intrigues you. I liked it much better than his previous books which, though well written, failed to make me care about affluent white gay young men in Thatcherite England. In addition to being more up my alley -- war literature! memory! cameos by poets and critics I've studied! -- this has a richer cast of characters, more complex structure, broader scope than his previous books. Even if you don't read it, please enjoy this rather perfect bit: "after quite a lot of drinks you didn't care so much about good manners" (165). True enough.