Alan Hollinghurst - The Swimming-Pool Library
A literary sensation and bestseller both in England and America, The Swimming-Pool Library is an enthralling, darkly erotic novel of homosexuality before the scourge of AIDS; an elegy, possessed of chilling clarity, for ways of life that can no longer be lived with impunity. "Impeccably composed and meticulously particular in its observation of everything" (Harpers & Queen), it focuses on the friendship of two men: William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, an old Africa hand, searching for someone to write his biography and inherit his traditions.
On entering a London public lavatory in blithe pursuit of quick, anonymous sex, beautiful and roguish young aristocrat William Beckwith isconfronted instead with an ancient, doddering member of the British House of Lords who, after muttering an incoherent string of polite non sequiturs, promptly keels over at his feet in embarrassed but undeniable coronary arrest. After saving the old man's life, Will is invited to tea by the grateful and slightly senile Lord Nantwich, who, surprised by Will's impressive lineage and appalled at his state of idle unemployment, engages the young man to write the Nantwich life story. Thus begins the unusual relationship that forms the core of this funny, sad and beautifully written novel. The Swimming Pool Library weaves a rich and fascinating tapestry of Britain's gay subculture spanning pre-World War I through the sexually abandoned early '80s, stopping short at the doorstep of AIDS. Hollinghurst's prose is fresh, witty and wise, and his ever-surprising, sinuously unfurling story is told with insouciant grace and unabashed sexuality. BOMC and QPBC alternates. (September) Publishers Weekly
This novel created quite a stir in Britain and will probably do so herefor it minces no words in providing a realistic glimpse of the gay lifestyle in pre-AIDS London. Yet the approach is much more "literary" than sensational, the author masterfully re-creating a sense of time and place and the social and cultural milieu in which gay men operated. The occasionally graphic descriptions of sex will likely upset some readers, but for most the aura of unselfconscious eroticism will provide a sense of authenticity that only adds to its impact. Still, this is not a nostalgia piece; the author clearly understands that the freedom to satisfy lust often interferes with the ability to find fulfillment and love. Perceptive and well written; belongs in most academic and public libraries Library Journal