The Folding Star

The Folding Star : Historical Fiction

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Edward Manners - thirty three and disaffected - escapes to a Flemish city in search of a new life. Almost at once he falls in love with seventeen-year-old Luc, and is introduced to the twilight world of the 1890s Belgian painter Edgard more

Product details

  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 30mm | 300g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0099476916
  • 9780099476917
  • 114,910

Review Text

Sensibility overwhelms narrative in this story of homoerotic obsession, a second novel from the British Hollinghurst (The Swimming-Pool Library, 1988). Pudgy, bespectacled Edward Manners is a 32-year-old gay Englishman just arrived in an unidentified Flemish town, where he will give English lessons to two students, pursue his own "bits of writing," and check out the gay scene - a Continental adventure before the onset of middle age. In short order, he finds a sex partner (Cherif, a hot young Moroccan) and falls in love with one of his students, 17-year-old Luc Altidore, "a blond Aztec" expelled from an exclusive Jesuit school for serious truancy. Edward does not declare his love, though his theft of his beloved's underwear is a symptom of his obsession, an obsession he finds paralleled in the life of local Symbolist painter Edgard Orst (1865-1944) while working on a catalogue for the Orst Museum. Orst became obsessed with a Scottish actress. Though their affair was cut short when she drowned at sea, Orst painted her for the rest of his life. Edward starts to see Luc's eyes as those of an "Orst temptress"; he is fascinated by the story, appropriately, for he is a pedant/aesthete whose most passionate outburst is reserved for a Muzak rendition of Mozart in a hotel dining room. Edward's cultural and sexual history is detailed further when he returns to England for the funeral of his one great love; as teenagers, they made love beneath Milton's "folding star." All this background is presented well, but by the time it's established, Hollinghurst's story has withered on the vine. His attempts to revive it in the final (Belgian) section, as he ups the ante for Edward and Luc while throwing in revelations about Orst's final days, are unsuccessful. As in his debut, Hollinghurst seeks thematic richness by counterpointing lives from different eras, but here his weakness as a storyteller is even more marked. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Alan Hollinghurst

Alan Hollinghurst was born in 1954. He is the author of one of the most highly praised first novels to appear in the 1980s, The Swimming-Pool Library (1988), and was selected as one of the Best Young British Novelists 1993. His second novel, The Folding Star, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize. He has since written The Spell. He was on the staff of the Times Literary Supplement from 1982 to more

Review quote

" 'As is typical of the best classics, he has fashioned a universal tale of sexual obsession, love and death out of a particular life' - Marie Claire. 'Even in its sexiest moments, it never loses its intellectual poise. Dry witticisms intersperse sweaty couplings... The Folding Star is a novel of considerable breadth. What gives it its depth is the candour, wit, sensuous immediacy and melancholy intelligence applied to it' - Peter Kemp, Times Literary Supplement. 'Few writers' prose can throw a party as easily as retire to the library as Hollinghurst's...[He] is on as fine a form in this novel as his first' - Tom Shone, Spectator. 'Grand 19th-century fin-de-siecle lusciousness, a seamy 20th-century carnality and a generous pinch of true wit' - Sunday Times"show more
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