Alan Hollinghurst is one of the authors who featured in my dissertation, so I’ve been trying to work my way through all his novels. The Line of Beauty was the text in my second chapter, then I read The Stranger’s Child and The Swimming-Pool Library in summer 2012. I read The Folding Star last year for CBR6, and was not a super huge fan of it. The Spell is the last of Hollinghurst’s books I hadn’t read, so I decided to “collect” another author.
You could say that The Spell sort of takes a page out of Jane Austen’s book. If Jane Austen were a gay man in an era of sexual possibility and trying to juggle three love affairs at one time. You have four major characters, all of whom connect in interesting ways: there’s Robin, a late-40s architect who still has a handsome body; Justin, a 30-something wannabe actor who is in a long-term relationship with Robin and making a home with him in the countryside; Alex, Justin’s ex-boyfriend still pining after Justin but agreeing to be a house guest in the country for a few weeks; and then there’s Danny, Robin’s charismatic but wildly unpredictable son, who captures the fancy of all the men around him.
It’s quite intriguing and makes an interesting commentary on the drug culture and materialism that surrounded gay Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. While I’d still classify The Line of Beauty and The Stranger’s Child as my favorites, I still think this novel is worth a read–the party scene is quite a hoot, in its own right.