The woman at the local bookshop told me that she hasn't liked the selections for the Man-Booker Prize every since it added that pesky Man on the front. Before, she argued, when it was just the Booker Prize, the pickins were good. Now, she says, they tend to be more racy and raunchy - although still quite well-written - books.
And woooo... was she right. At least when it came to the pick for 2005.
The Line of Beauty is Alan Hollinghurst's tribute to rampant cocaine use and gay sex, with a little bit of sentimentality thrown in. Or maybe it goes the other way: sentimentality first, and then all that wild stuff second. Well, I can't decide.
Really, though, behind its flashy scenes and regular use of the word "bumshoving," The Line of Beauty has a wonderful, delicate side. The book is entertaining, but touching, and - although I would hesitate to ever say the book is a comedy - I found a few scenes where I laughed out loud.
The premise: Nick Guest is an inexperienced average Joe who moves to London to live with a politically powerful extremely rich family - The Feddens. Nick spent his Oxford years pining over the Fedden's son, Toby, who was Nick's ticket to the fancy, frightening world of the rich and famous. But then Nick meets another guy, and they develop a relationship. As he gains experience, Nick also develops a drug habit and then he starts dating a Lebanese millionaire. Somewhere in there, he talks a lot about art and furniture and feeling insecure.
Ok, so the plot sounds like a mess, but the overall picture is fluid and borderline epic. We grow with Nick as he has his first sexual experience, and we wince when he tries to hide his homosexuality from his family and certain friends. Then we move on up in the world with him, and celebrate as he incorporates his way into the Fedders' life. It's also a little nerve-wracking to go to big-shot parties (attended by Thatcher) alongside Nick as he continuously takes trips to the bathroom to powder his nose. But there are other, quieter moments that make this novel a bit more cozy and touching than most, and in the end, the drugs and sex are not what make this a great read. The book is sensitive and sad and seductive all at once.
Read it: The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst