The Swimming Pool Library Alan Hollinghurst

This book divided members of our book group on age lines. The older people saw it as an accurate reflection on the hedonistic pre-AIDS days. The pub is based on a place where the author drank and there are vivid scenes remembered from twenty years ago. The younger members thought it unrealistic.

The central character is, by and large, self-absorbed, though he has flashes of self-awareness.

It is a mixture of fantasy and reality in which the characters are over-confident.

There are acute descriptions and observations, though the six-year-old is precocious – why? Is this a farce? The story doesn’t go anywhere because the people’s lives aren’t going anywhere.


“Now he had chanced on one of te standard hard-on sessions of the shower, as on both sides of him and across the room three queens sported horizontal members which they turned around from time to time to conceal or display, barely exchanging looks as they resolved. The old men took no interest in this activity, knowing perhaps from long experience that it rarely meant anything or led anywhere, was a brief and helpless surrender to the forcing-house of the shower. In a few seconds the hard-on might pass from one end of the room to the other with the foolish perfection of a Busby Berkeley routine.”

“And going into the showers I saw a suntanned young lad in pale blue trunks that I rather liked the look of.”

“There are chaps who don’t care for them, you know. Simply can’t abide them. Can’t stand the sight of them, their titties and their big sit-upons,”

“The seat I had taken was marked for the use of the elderly and handicapped, but had another claimant come, a figure like Charles, for instance, I would have been prepared to leave the train, when my stop came, with a lurching gait or limb held awry to designate my previously unguessed incapacity.”

Return to the home page