The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
Set in England in 1913, The Stranger's Child is a century-spanning love story centering on an ambiguous poem written by a young man while visiting a school-mate's family's country home. The mysterious poem becomes the stuff of legend and the center of a love triangle when the man is killed in the First World War.
Reviewer: Peter Parker
"Beautifully written, ambitious in its scope and structure, confident in its execution, The Stranger’s Child is a masterclass in the art of the novel."
Reviewer: Sam Leith
"Rather than use its scale to produce the weightless afflatus of a family saga, The Stranger’s Child captures as well as anything I’ve read the particular gravity of time passing, and the irrecoverable losses it brings with it. It is an extraordinary achievement."
Reviewer: Adam Eaglin
"It's a clear-eyed look at how strange and perplexing memory is, and how vague and uncertain our relationships, sexual and otherwise, can be. It's a thrilling, enchanting work of art, and the latest in what we can only hope will be a very long career."
Reviewer: Adam Kirsch
"Mr. Hollinghurst dramatizes the contingency of memory and the unreliability of biography with great skill...It is this novelistic intelligence that makes "The Stranger's Child" such a pleasure to read, and Mr. Hollinghurst one of the best novelists at work today."
Reviewer: Michael Dirda
"he writes with the relaxed elegance and unobtrusive charm of a Cary Grant. Part social history, part social comedy and wholly absorbing, “The Stranger’s Child” does everything a novel should do and makes it look easy."
Reviewer: Elizabeth Minkel
"A book of this scope writes its own history, and if you find that history compelling, you’re doomed to fall in love with it. This was the first novel in a long while that pulled me in wholeheartedly: I stayed in on the weekend, and didn’t grumble about getting stuck on the train one night, just to finish it faster."
Reviewer: Thomas Mallon
"The results are not unerring but the overall success is remarkable. The texture of the writing feels steadily satisfying, though this time out Hollinghurst seems to ration his customary bravura phrasing."
Reviewer: Margaret Howe
"The Stranger’s Child covers a hundred year span, but it doesn’t sprawl over it. Instead Hollinghurst makes incisions in time, exposing five slices from the narrative....In a book that takes on the pitfalls of biography, what is left out becomes as revealing as what is included."
Reviewer: Emma Brockes
"As always, Mr. Hollinghurst maintains an almost perfect balance between momentum and still life. He is also shrewdly funny."
Reviewer: Hari Kunzru
"It is at its strongest when teasing out nuances of social behaviour...in this affecting, erudite novel, he transcends what might have been a purely backward-looking project, a filling in of the gay blanks."
Reviewer: Theo Tait
"it's merely very good: it doesn't leave you dazed, page after page, with the brilliance, wit and subtlety of its perceptions. Is this an ungrateful line of criticism? Probably: The Stranger's Child will no doubt be one of the best novels published this year."
Reviewer: Yvonne Zipp
"“The Stranger’s Child,” which is set up in five movements like a symphony, avoids pivotal events – even the world wars occur offstage – in favor of their elegaic aftermath. Hollinghurst is a master of misdirection and what he leaves out is almost as telling as his cutting descriptions."
Reviewer: Christopher Tayler
"In addition to providing an elegant ending, he makes the book into an elegant gesture: a critic-pleasing novel depicting critics and biographers as being essentially parasitic and, even when right, point-missingly or irrelevantly so."
Reviewer: Keith Miller
"Hollinghurst, as ever, is quietly brilliant about architecture, both in the specific sense of a cultural discourse about buildings, and the broader sense of how people behave in different kinds of place....Hollinghurst’s writing isn’t antiquarian, even if its density and attentiveness, no less than the book’s love-in-great-houses theme, evoke several past avatars."
Reviewer: Margot Livesey
"The Stranger’s Child is unabashedly ambitious in theme and intelligent in execution....In my smutty way, I craved just a little more drama, just a little more certainty, which is, after all, one of the traditional pleasures of the novel. But this is like complaining about the lack of cream puffs after a 10-course meal, a very small quibble about a magnificent party."
Reviewer: John Banville
"The Stranger’s Child gives a curious impression of inconsequence. This is to some extent the result of the steady forward narrative march through the years with the inevitable engraying of the landscape...All the same, that cannot be the last word. For the daring of its setting out, and for the consistent flash and fire of the writing, The Stranger’s Child is to be cherished."
Reviewer: David Robson
"The ending disappoints; indeed, one of the structural drawbacks of the novel is that the various biographers of Valance are progressively less interesting than the writer whose life they are trying to exhume. But every Alan Hollinghurst novel is a cause for celebration, and this spacious, elegant satire is no exception."
Reviewer: Eric Banks
"There is nothing naughty about the neatness with which Hollinghurst ties up almost all of his loose ends, a resolution that is almost too satisfying to certain expectations and that makes The Stranger’s Child his most conventional effort to date. So be it. There is a poignancy and a humor that is far from conventional, and a sense of an ending that outlasts the comforts of closure."
Reviewer: Ellen Wernecke
"Stranger’s Child suffers a little, particularly early on, from the too-brief appearance of the man around whose short life the other characters orbit, willingly or not....Once The Stranger’s Child lets go of the man in favor of the legend, the swirls of Hollinghurst’s dreamy prose resolve into a portrait grander than that of one person alone."
Reviewer: Jason Cowley
"The overall effect is charming and you admire the artistry but it can also be enervating – sometimes you wish that things were more slipshod, rough and urgent in this fictional world, a little less perfect and sumptuously poised."
Reviewer: James Wood
"“The Stranger’s Child” is a frustrating book, both a large and a curiously small novel—it trembles for a time on the verge of moving beyond the parochialism of its very familiar literary setting, and is finally happy to fall back into the comfy and the known."