Last night I finished The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, and true to the title, it was filled with lines of beauty. Like its namesake, Hogarth’s s-shaped Line of Beauty, the story is comprised of long curving sentences, so well-crafted that they feel like they could stand alone. But just as the words may be a thing of beauty, the s-shaped narrative (and syntax) also at times led my mind adrift and me to temporarily lose interest along the way. Nevertheless, the overall effect of the book is powerful. Set in the Thatcherite 80s amongst the snobby British elite, a young middle-class homosexual man, Nick Guest, steps into the dangers and hypocrisies of the times. Although it’s not a suspense or a who’s done it, I am reluctant to say more. Instead, I will give you one of my favorite lines from the beginning of the story,
In the course of their long conversations about men he had let one or two of his fantasies assume the status of fact, had lied a little, and had left some of Catherine’s assumptions about him unchallenged. His confessed but entirely imaginary seductions took on — partly through the special effort required to invent them and repeat them consistently — the quality of real memories. He sometimes had the sense, from a hint of reserve in people he was talking to, that while they didn’t believe him they saw he was beginning to believe himself.