The Stranger's Child

Hollinghurst, Alan

Book - 2011
Average Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
The Stranger's Child
"In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge schoolmate--a handsome, aristocratic young poet named Cecil Valance--to his family's modest home outside London for the weekend. George is enthralled by Cecil, and soon his sixteen-year-old sister, Daphne, is equally besotted by him and the stories he tells about Corley Court, the country estate he is heir to. But what Cecil writes in Daphne's autograph album will change their and their families' lives forever: a poem that, after Cecil is killed in the Great War and his reputation burnished, will become a touchstone for a generation, a work recited by every schoolchild in England. Over time, a tragic love story is spun, even as other secrets lie buried--until, decades later, an ambitious biographer threatens to unearth them."--P. [2] of jacket.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
Edition: 1st North American ed
ISBN: 0307272761
Branch Call Number: FICTION HOLLINGHU 2011
Characteristics: 435 p. ;,24 cm


From Library Staff

A poem is at the center of this story about families, secrets and revelations.

From the critics

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Jan 19, 2013
  • pomtree rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

This novel didn't quite work. Hollinghurst took a risk (probably motivated by young up-and-comers like David Mitchell) with the structure of the novel. Although it was clever, he didn't pull it off. The book is tedious, slow and quite frankly, boring!

Jul 03, 2012
  • eevans7 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I loved this book! I picked it up on vacation thinking it might be too slow for a beach read, but I couldn't put it down. The pace is slow and deliberate in a good way. Hollinghurst knows exactly which details to include so that you really get the perfect sense of a person's character and all the little mundane social situations that make up an interesting life. I loved the way he tied together all the generations and eras.

Jun 29, 2012
  • ladiablesse rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Terrific, page-turning read.
If you enjoy Downton Abbey, E.M. Forster or Brideshead Revisited, you'll inhale this book. Anything but fusty, its pages are alive with well-observed, smartly delineated characters, in witty, well-turned prose. Though less explicit than his earlier books, this novel "outs" the gay subtext of its literary forbears with style and verve. A sweeping social novel that's remains intimate, through the touchstone of fictional WW1 poet, Cecil Valance.

Feb 09, 2012

I was a bit disappointed by the later chapters of this book that got dragged down in too much boring detail. His concept is fantastic, how life moves on and history can never be exactly re-created, but it lacks the sizzle of Line of Beauty.

Jan 21, 2012
  • macierules rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

My favourite type of novel - a sweeping family saga. The author lost me a bit from 1977 on as I couldn't see so much interest happening in the publishing world for a not-so-famous poet.

Dec 31, 2011
  • jbmcfarland rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

After hearing lavish praise for this novel and enjoying "The Line of Beauty," I was surprised to find this one so 'clever,' overwrought and distractingly choppy... it covers much time (potentially epic given the century) but the characters (who have names that blur together... clara, luisa, frieda, karina, jeff, john, etc) never seem to come alive as real personalities. This may stem from the heavy burden put on narration, but the result is that I just didn't care about any of them, esp the twits (of which there are many many many). There is also a nasty undertone to the thread of class theme since its time period spans time with its shift from old family aristo dominance to the rise of people who would have 100 years before been servants to the idiots with the names. Rather unpleasant, esp with all the dissimulation, lying and closeting of sexual antics of the fools, not to mention the mystery the reader expects to be clarified is muddied even more by the unsatisfying end in a junk store and old house about to be demolished (could it be SYMBOLIC? god!).

Dec 31, 2011
  • shapjul rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I thought this book was a wonderful leisurely read. I had to put it down from time to time to think it over and absorb it. There are five sections, each a slice of the 20th century. Characters appear and reappear. The style/tone changes to suit the period--so the first section (pre-WW1) is much more languid and Forsteresque than the later ones. It's a consideration of the history of gay relationships in a way.

The consistent center is a young poet who dies in WW1. He's in the first section but then the rest become a story of the struggle to control his narrative. It's really beautifully written and I found it quite compelling.

I see that someone else says it is disjointed, but I disagree. It is slices of a century during which attitudes towards same-sex love changed quite a bit. I don't think it is really meant to be a family saga, but more a story about how history (writ small) is made and owned.

Dec 30, 2011
  • uncommonreader rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

Old-fashioned. Hollinghurst is a snob.

Oct 27, 2011
  • baylife rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

Characterisation poor. A family saga that misses drawing the There are big leaps in time and it seems very disjointed.

Oct 22, 2011

"Alan Hollinghurst’s characters like going to parties; or, if they don’t exactly like going, they can’t, for various reasons, stay away. Nick Guest, the main character in Hollinghurst’s previous novel, The Line of Beauty, was, as his name suggests, a wonderfully social being and the novel, which won the Man Booker Prize, offered a vivid portrait of the cultural and sexual mores of 1980s London. Now, seven years later, in The Stranger’s Child, Hollinghurst once again sends his characters to many parties. He is a dazzling writer, but never more so than when describing an extended scene with people coming and going, and having one too many gin and tonics."
Margot Livesey
Globe and Mail


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