Alan Hollinghurst’s fourth novel—just awarded England’s Man Booker Prize—is a scathing examination of the sexual, racial, and class fault lines of the Thatcher era as they converge in one young man’s life. Nick Guest, The Line of Beauty’s scholar-protagonist, comes bearing many youthful social fantasies and a symbolic last name. A university friendship launches him into the orbit of a Conservative MP and his wife, who adopt him as a de facto family member. Even as Nick’s private life becomes more incompatible with high-Tory domesticity, he retains a doggedly romantic view of his patrons. When he reads reports of the family’s downfall—a lurid tale of greed, disgrace, and aids—“he felt he himself had learnt nothing new.” Reading The Line of Beauty is similar: Although it is meticulously accurate on the vicissitudes of Thatcherism, it delivers no surprises.
The Line of Beauty
Alan Hollinghurst. Bloomsbury. 400 Pages. $24.95.