Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday night Feb 24 almost 5:30

Need to post a Midway Review because I’m past midway in Hollinghurst’s novel, The Stranger’s Child.  I’m on page 240 in the 435 page Vintager paperback.  Paul the bank clerk is fantasizing about having the school teacher, Peter Rowe, as a lover.  Peter and Corinna teach at the preparatory school for boys that occupies Corley Court, which was of course the childhood home of Corinna.  Paul is helping the arriving crowd park their cars for an event taking place at the school, or are they at the town square?  We are in 1967 and we started back in 19? 1910 perhaps.  So we are in the third or fourth of the five generations who are being portrayed. Totally enjoyable book, so exquisitely well-written that I read more slowly than usual and often pause and re-read just to be sure I’m getting details.  And to enjoy them once more.  Half-way into it, I realize that the most interesting quality about it is that even by now I don’t really know what the book is about. It is about the family, the families intertwined, in some ways by the great house itself, Corley Court, and it is about the passage of time, the generations, and history but history in the proper sense is very much in the far background.  With each section or book, Five of them, there is a shift to a character around whom the rest of the story revolves.  Paul seems to be the one in Book Three we have seen the most of, so far, although Peter also seems featured and the possibility of their romance or flirtation might be what will be the central even.  But even if it is, we know that in the next two Books, the saga will move onward, and exactly how and where we don’t yet know.  The pleasure in this reading feels at once very familiar---British novel of manners, sort of, and family-historical sweep, but again, sort of.  Hollinghurst discovers in here perhaps something as new-familiar as any other writer working today.  We could even place him favorable next to his younger generation Norwegian compeer, Karl Ove Knausgaard.  But where K has taken six volumes, Hollinghurst, the older master, has found how to do his tale in one volume of five slim near-novellas, linked. Even enwebbed.  In each section we enjoy a full portrait of the family as it works within the larger community, not of the nation but of the local region.  A rich cast of characters, memorably drawn in spare lines, and a narrator’s presence as enjoyable as any novel you can recall.  Many reviewers mention James.  Yes, but I have not read James in such a long while I can say I can see why but I won’t attempt to chime in on that point.  I have not read early Hollinghurst either.  I read his Booker prize novel, The Line of Beauty.  

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