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The Stranger's Child    by Alan Hollinghurst order for
Stranger's Child
by Alan Hollinghurst
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Vintage, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Booker Prize winning author Alan Hollinghurst intrigues his readers once again with The Stranger's Child. This tome spans many years, from the summer of 1913 until close to the present day. Several generations play their parts in a saga of families torn apart by war, love triangles, men who prefer men, and the women who try to understand their preferences.

Poetry reigns as various members of the plot are poets especially Cecil Valance, who doesn't survive the war but leaves behind a legacy of his writings. Writers abound, many of whom wish to write biographies of the young war-hero poet. Cecil had been a character bigger than life and had made a play for Daphne as well as her brother. A question arises as to who fathered the second and third of Daphne's children. And she's not telling.

From one part of the book to the next, we move up a generation. The grand old Victorian hulk that was Daphne's family home becomes a boys' school. Those living in the country move to London, and Londoners move to the country.

It's a beguiling tale that brings to life pre-World War I conditions and the atmosphere that led up to the 1920s. Hollinghurst's imagery of the remnants of the Victorian age, as well as the times up to and during the World War II years, brings that era to vivid life. Readers share the eventual deterioration of the grand old house; the forests of the area; the styles of clothes; the foods partaken. Everything is written with flair. The occasional sexual scenes are expressed with propriety and are not offensive.

All in all, The Stranger's Child is a fine book - a long one that seems as though some paragraphs or chapters could be cut but which ones?

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