I have, as might be imagined, a moderately large backlog of books read, but not yet written up. The particularly annoying thing about that, for me, is that it’s not a chronological backlog—there are some books where I’ve been unsure of what I want to say, so they’ve sunk to the bottom of the list. But I’m going to try to rectify that, so: Back in 2011, I read Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child, and it still sticks with me as a memorable and excellent book, which has to count as a strong recommendation.

The book starts in a pre-WW1 English countryside house, where a young would-be poet is visiting his schoolmate, during which visit he writes a poem for the family. The rest of the book skips forward in leaps to the present-day, following the family members as their lives (and their world) change; and also following scholars studying this poem, which is to become a minor classic.

I am fascinated by stories set against a changing world (The Baroque Cycle, for instance), and so maybe it’s no surprise that I love that here, too. But more than just the world, I love the characters changing over time, and seeing the characters through the eyes of people who never knew them except as historical figures to be studied, and seeing how biography both intrudes and distorts.

This is a beautifully-written book with something to say. Strongly recommended.


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