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The Spell

A book by Alan Hollinghurst

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Hollinghurst continues to cast Spells

  • Nov 20, 1999
Unlike some reviewers of Alan Hollinghurst's The Spell who apparently prefer to rush to climax, I basked in the sheer pleasure of the author's command of the English language and ability to create kaleidoscopic, mesmerizing puzzles of the fabric of relationships. This short novel can be enjoyed on multiple levels - elegant prose describing England, a biting view of gay life in the 1990's at times acerbic and at times nostalgic, a guide to unravelling the intricacies of the webs we weave that define our public from our private selves. But with the last page closing we are left with the reassurance the savory prose is still being created...and eagerly await the author's next journey.

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About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #96
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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About this book


Alan Hollinghurst writes like a dream about the nightmare of unequal affection. In his third novel,The Spell, four men dance around one another, their emotions and actions ranging from casual cruelty to anxiety to adoration. Hollinghurst's painful but smiling roundelay alternates between Dorset--where 40ish architect Robin shares a house with the impossibly self-involved Justin--and London. When Justin's ex, Alex, arrives for a weekend in the country, the atmosphere is instantly rich with jealousy and power plays. And after the trio is joined by a younger gay man, Danny--who turns out to be Robin's son--the attractions and duplicities multiply exponentially. Alex, for instance, soon admits to Danny, "I've got a ruinous taste for takers," and they (and we) are off and running.

As ever, Hollinghurst's prose is musical and sensual but also deeply witty. Even the birds in this novel modulate their song from somnolent calls to outright chuckles--echoing the pleasures and absurdities of the humans they circle. And the author's feel for the easy intimacies and brutalities that his characters exchange is unmatched. As Justin (clad only in a tanga) escorts Alex around the cottage, he points out some vases: "These pots, darling, were made by potters of the greatest probity." Hollinghurst's descriptions are marvelous, whether of landscape or human frailty. After leaving a rather unrelaxed restaurant with Alex, "Danny recovered his ...

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ISBN-10: 0670883565
ISBN-13: 978-0670883561
Author: Alan Hollinghurst
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Viking Adult
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