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A reader's guide to The Line Of Beauty

Updated Thursday, 1st February 2007

Set against a 1980s backdrop, a young man climbs the social ladder and becomes intimate with the powerful.

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Our February novel won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for 2004. It is the story of Nick Guest, a young man who lodges with Tory MP Gerald Fedden and his family and becomes caught up in their world.

Still from the BBC production of The Line Of Beauty
A scene from the BBC adaptation of the book

Set in the 1980s Alan Hollinghurst’s book has been described as ‘A brilliantly comical and accurate satire upon the high noon of Mrs Thatcher’, and this is certainly one aspect which we will be able to explore.

However, the text has many other angles for us to follow up on the forum:

  • The title has a number of different interpretations, which can be identified and discussed.
  • Before the novel actually begins there is an extract from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and we might consider its relevance.
  • Whilst The Line of Beauty has been hailed as a ‘quiet masterpiece’, it contains some sex scenes which readers may find too graphic. Are these gratuitous, or are they essential to our understanding of Nick’s development?
  • Why does Hollinghurst use the symbol of the ogee as a thematic device? What does its shape imply?
  • In view of past discussions on the forum, dare I mention that comparisons have been made between Henry James and Alan Hollinghurst? Perhaps not…

Back in October 2006 we read about Leonard Bast’s quest for beauty in EM Forster’s classic novel Howards End. The next month we turned our attention to Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. Here we are again pursuing a familiar theme!


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