Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Folded Star

Alan Hollinghurst's prose in this novel is as sensuous and sensitive as his later Man Booker Prize-winner. His style was an accomplished fact before writing "The Line of Beauty." Quiveringly and ironically, it traces the outlines of unrequited love and loss in the highly sexed-up world of homosexuals. What the earlier novel lacks is the political dimension of that world, the Thatcherite atmosphere and events so brilliantly captured in "The Line of Beauty." Though it depicts non-white and non-bourgeois characters, the earlier novel also lacks the texture, the tangled web, of class and race. What "The Folded Star" offers is an imagined Belgium, dreamed up by Edward Manners, the Englishman who falls in love with a boy he tutors. England, depicted in the middle of the three sections, is viewed in Edward's memory of his past romances, again giving the external world the feel of a dream, lost and irrecoverable, whether symoblized by the fatal motor accident of his English lover, or by the simultaneous sexual consummation and loss of the Belgian boy.

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