The Sparsholt Affair
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The Sparsholt Affair

3.58 (3,068 ratings by Goodreads)
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'Hollinghurst has a strong, perhaps unassailable claim to be the best English novelist working today.' - Guardian

In October 1940, the handsome young David Sparsholt arrives in Oxford. A keen athlete and oarsman, he at first seems unaware of the effect he has on others - particularly on the lonely and romantic Evert Dax, son of a celebrated novelist and destined to become a writer himself. While the Blitz rages in London, Oxford exists at a strange remove: an ephemeral, uncertain place, in which nightly blackouts conceal secret liaisons. Over the course of one momentous term, David and Evert forge an unlikely friendship that will colour their lives for decades to come . . .

Man Booker Prize-winning author Alan Hollinghurst's masterly novel evokes the intimate relationships of a group of friends bound together by art, literature and love across three generations. It explores the social and sexual revolutions of the most pivotal years of the past century, whose life-changing consequences are still being played out to this day. Richly observed, disarmingly witty and emotionally charged, The Sparsholt Affair is an unmissable achievement from one of our finest writers.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 464 pages
  • 161 x 242 x 36mm | 740g
  • PICADOR
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main Market Ed
  • 1447208218
  • 9781447208211
  • 25,491

Review quote

I read this novel, every word of the 454 pages, in two days. This is not your usual page-turner: it is a meticulously written, acutely insightful novel about human (mis)behavior, about time and unremitting change, with a skein of skillfully entwined what-happens-next? He has his characters to a tee; the humour can ambush us. More movingly, a situation of multiple accumulations can be rendered by a single gesture-and a casual flick of the authorial eye. It would be hard, impossible, to over-praise this novel. * Sunday Herald * Pure Hollinghurst: a beautifully observed portrait of men and manners. A touchingly upbeat tale, and the dialogue is a joy . . . a beautifully observed portrait of men and manners, with homosexuality at its core . . . It is a touchingly upbeat tale and, as always with Hollinghurst, the dialogue is a joy * Irish Mail on Sunday * Alan Hollinghurst's novels remind you of the deep pleasures of reading novels. Such is the penetrating clarity of his perception, his ability to convey many layers of experience at once, he has an uncanny way of making you feel as if you're remembering what you're reading about . . . But this novel is wider in scope, more tender and less fastidious than anything he's written before * Evening Standard * A masterful observer of the subtleties of human behaviour, Hollinghurst focuses on the hopes of the human heart and reflects them back at the reader in sentences of heart-shattering beauty. He can capture a character in a single line and unearth their secrets in a sentence. Exceptional * Attitude Magazine * Hollinghurst is a writer of rare skill, one of the stars of his generation, like Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan, whose every book is keenly anticipated * Sunday Telegraph * Audacious, ambitious . . . Hollinghurst's prose delights. It will vindicate those who believe that, whether or not Hollinghurst is the greatest living English novelist, he is the one who writes the best sentences . . . The Sparsholt Affair is a long, absorbingly complex novel, but its deepest pleasures are its sentences * The Times * Without doubt, both a highlight of Hollinghurst's career, and one of the best books of the year. The novel charts the course of three generations of Sparsholts. Hollinghurst moves between times, places, and perspectives with the ease of a true master, any regret I felt at leaving each behind immediately mitigated by the majestic welcome of the next * Independent * Line by line, scene by scene, Hollinghurst crafts this book with a jeweller's eye . . . magnificently observed . . . You might question the cumulative effect of Hollinghurst's vignettes but I can't think of another writer who dramatizes the private anguish of desire with such laser-like precision. * Metro * There can be no denying the elegance of the novel or the great skills and empathetic style of Hollinghurst who, along with Sarah Waters and Philip Hensher, has become one of the finest chroniclers of gay lives in contemporary Britain. -- John Boyne * Irish Times * This book moves from strength to strength. The immense assurance of the writing, the deep knowledge of the settings and periods in which the story unfolds, the mingling of cruel humour and lyrical tenderness, the insatiable interest in human desire from its most refined to its most brutally carnal, grip you as tightly as any thriller. Hollinghurst layers situations that cumulatively portray a culture as it exists in time as well as in space: a constellation of longings and confusions. The novel keeps pulsing: an amazing amount of the passion and folly of the human comedy is woven in, all of it beautifully observed and memorably articulated. Almost as hard to pin down as it is to put down . . . -- James Lasdon * Guardian * Masterly, evocative-a portrait of life in the UK before and since the decriminalization of homosexuality [from] one of our finest novelists. . . As with all Hollinghurst's work, it is utterly involving, uncannily realized, beautifully written, and very moving. * Esquire * Hollinghurst's prose delights with its tricks of inference and unexpected phrasings. The Sparsholt Affair is a long, absorbingly complex novel, but its deepest pleasures are its sentences * The Times * For next year's [Booker] prize it's hard to look beyond Alan Hollinghurst's masterful The Sparsholt Affair, which I found thrillingly stylish and gripping -- Alex Preston, 'Books of the Year', Observer Alan Hollinghurst layered historical snapshots of gay life in The Sparsholt Affair, a beautifully written chronicle of art and love in a changing Britain * Guardian * The throbbing sexuality of Alan Hollinghurst's earlier novels is notched down to a muted hum in this tale of gay life after the Second World War, although the prose and social observation are as sharp as ever * Times * For narrative ambition and sheer comic joy, by far the best thing I've read this year is Alan Hollinghurst's The Sparsholt Affair. He's a writer who makes every word sing. -- Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Book of the Year * Spectator * Alan Hollinghurst's The Sparsholt Affair is startling, radical, embedded in tradition but entirely new in final effect - the novel that other novelists were all talking about this year. -- Philip Hensher I had the distinct sense, on finishing Alan Hollinghurst's latest novel, that I might have read next year's Booker-winner before this year's had even been announced. The Sparsholt Affair is a sweeping and intimate masterpiece, full of sensual pleasures and observational wisdom. -- Geoff Dyer Alan Hollinghurst's new novel is almost as hard to pin down as it is to put down. The immense assurance of the writing, the deep knowledge of the settings and periods in which the story unfolds, the mingling of cruel humour and lyrical tenderness, the insatiable interest in human desire from its most refined to its most brutally carnal, grip you as tightly as any thriller. * Guardian * His prose is richly textured and alive with ironic wit. Alertness to tone and body language is acute. Urbanely satiric scenes, nicely fitted out with period detail, entertainingly unroll. Suave impalings of vanity are a speciality. * The Times * The work of a master . . . Hollinghurst's tale of dreaming spires and secrets is his finest novel yet. As one would expect of Hollinghurst, the greatest prose stylist writing in English today, this is a book full of glorious sentences, perhaps his most beautiful novel. -- Alex Preston * Observer * Hollinghurst has a strong, perhaps unassailable claim to be the best English novelist working today. * Guardian * Mr. Hollinghurst's great gift as a novelist is for social satire as sharp and transparent as glass, catching his quarry from an angle just an inch to the left of the view they themselves would catch in the mantelpiece mirror. * The New York Observer * Few writers' prose can throw a party as easily as retire to the library as Hollinghurst's * Spectator * Hollinghurst can make language do what he wants . . . It makes a lot of contemporary fiction seem thin and underachieving. * Evening Standard * Hollinghurst is a master storyteller ... thrilling in the rather awful way that the best Victorian novels are, so that one finds oneself galloping somewhat shamefacedly through the pages in order to discover what happens next. -- John Banville
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About Alan Hollinghurst

Alan Hollinghurst is the author of five highly acclaimed novels, including The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star, The Spell, The Line of Beauty and The Stranger's Child. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction and the 2004 Man Booker Prize. He lives in London.
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Rating details

3,068 ratings
3.58 out of 5 stars
5 18% (560)
4 38% (1,151)
3 32% (970)
2 10% (305)
1 3% (82)
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