46. The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst
The Stranger’s Child is a sweeping novel that begins in 1913 and ends in the present. Just prior to the start of World War I, George Sawle brings home his good Cambridge friend Cecil Valance, who is already a poet gaining recognition in Britain. During his visit Cecil composes what is to become his most well known poem about Two Acres, the Sawle’s estate, as a gift to George’s younger sister Daphne.
Cecil and his poem are the fruit of speculation for the rest of the novel with various people just interested in Cecil or literary history investigating him, his family, and the Sawle family. Much of the speculation surrounding many of the characters has to do with whether or not they are homosexual. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book and they way it was starting to portray the changes in the acceptance of homosexuality over time. However, Hollinghurst took it too far in that it seemed like eventually almost every male character was suspected to have been homosexual by at least one other character at some point or other in the story. It just got to be ridiculous. Also, most of the second half of the book is spent with one of the characters trying to uncover the truth of Cecil’s past for literally decades, which is extremely boring for the reader given they in fact have known what actually happened since the beginning of the book. The book started off with great promise and then totally fell apart for me. I give it a 5 out of 10.