The Strangers Child – Alan Hollinghurst

the strangerschildOne person enthused greatly but many in our group didn’t finish this book. One wanted to finish in order to go on to a more interesting book. In the end, he didn’t care whether Cecil was gay or not nor whether he had an affair.

Some only started to be interested with the arrival of Paul from Wantage working in the bank and looking at early porn and the country house now in a small town. The earlier stuff about posh people in posh houses. It was, however, interesting to see how houses changed hands and uses

Mention of the Bloomsbury Group and of Leo Abse rekindled interest but then it got boring again.

The ups and downs of the characters and the way in which they diminished with age was well told and the book was more linear than his previous stuff and shows a more mature style.

One thought it read like a detective novel, better than A. S. Byatt. Another saw hints of Evelyn Waugh. Cecil Valance is said to resemble World War I poet Rupert Brooke (WW1 cast a shadow over whole novel.)

One could empathise with a character entering a room of complete strangers.

There was a lovely description of a bank and its routines but wasn’t there a lot of smoking in public spaces back then?

Writing was more florid pre-war but do we really want one sentence followed by half a page describing that sentence?

And how come a prep school had 5th and 6th formers?

Do we really know anyone?

And what is memory? Facts and feelings get confused so it is an unreliable method of recovering the truth.

Daphne thinks: “What she felt then; and what she felt now; and what she felt now about what she felt then; it wasn’t remotely easy to say” p. 141.

Daphne muses: “He was asking for memories, too young himself to know that memories were only memories of memories” p.382

Jennifer Keeping tells Rob that Paul Bryant’s story of his father’s heroic death in World War II is a fiction, that in fact Paul was a bastard. For Rob, this revelation makes Paul “if anything more intriguing and sympathetic” p. 422

Awareness/intuition: After Cecil leaves “Two Acres,” Daphne thinks: “Of course he had gone! There was a thinness in the air that told her, in the tone of the morning, the texture of the servants’ movements and fragments of talk” p. 75

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