In The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst’s 2004 Booker prize-winning novel, the appropriately named Nick Guest is a rather impressionable young gay man who finds himself attached to the family of his university pal Toby Fedden, who is terribly nice but frightfully posh and unequivocally straight.
The Fedden family - including father Gerald, an upwardly-mobile Tory MP and mother Rachel who comes from Old Money - find it quite handy to have Nick around as official Gay Buddy and unofficial minder for their mentally unstable daughter Catherine.
Nick is about to start a PhD on Henry James’s style at UCL. The book shows the conflict between his life with the establishment Feddens and the realities of his gay life, which the Feddens accept only to the extent of never mentioning it.
Nick becomes ever more deeply embroiled in a damaging clandestine relationship with millionaire playboy Wani Ouradi, including random threesomes and heavy cocaine use.
Wani’s film production company is called Ogee. The name is Nick’s idea: an ogee is a shallow S-shaped curve, Hogarth’s ‘line of beauty’, ‘pure expression, decorative not structural’.
Nick is attracted by the beautiful things in the Fedden’s house as he is to beautiful men. At the end of the book, Nick is expelled from the Fedden’s house of beauty and hyprocrisy amid the beginnnings of the AIDS crisis.
The Line of Beauty is filled with pages and pages of breathtakingly beautiful, clear prose which is an absolute dream to read. A very worthy Booker winner and a must-read.
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