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Monday, September 19, 2016

Alan Hollinghurst and The Stranger's Child

The Stranger's Child is the first book I've read by Alan Hollinghurst. The 450-page novel begins in 1913 and concludes in 2008, and follows the lives of several key characters, men and women,  particularly as their memories reflect back on their relationships with Cecil L. Valance, an upper-class gentleman and minor World War II poet, who died as a war hero. Many of the key characters spend the rest of their lives trying to pin down the nature of their relationships with him, and several write their memoirs, while others influenced by him after his death also try to pin him down in writings and in interviews, yet Cecil was an ebullient personality who proved almost impossible to completely encapsulate. Many affirmed that he must have been bi-sexual because of his supposed relationship with Daphne, but was he as enchanted by the opposite sex as he was by men?

Incredibly nuanced conversations and relationships provide much, much to puzzle over, and every character is seriously flawed, as was Hollinghurst's expressed intent, although some characters appear more flawed than others.

Follow the link to an in-depth, fascinating interview with Hollinghurst in The Paris Review.

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