The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

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Brilliant out of the gate and energetically rendered in a wonderful final section, “The Sparsholt Affair” sags in the middle.
-Star Tribune

Synopsis

From the internationally acclaimed winner of the Man Booker Prize, a masterly new novel that spans seven transformative decades in England--from the 1940s to the present--as it plumbs the richly complex relationships of a remarkable family.

In 1940, David Sparsholt arrives at Oxford to study engineering, though his sights are set on joining the Royal Air Force. Handsome, athletic, charismatic, he is unaware of his effect on others--especially on Evert Dax, the lonely son of a celebrated novelist who is destined to become a writer himself. With the world at war, and the Blitz raging in London, Oxford nevertheless exists at a strange remove: a place of fleeting beauty--and secret liaisons. A friendship develops between these two young men that will have unexpected consequences as the novel unfolds.
     Alan Hollinghurst's new novel explores the legacy of David Sparsholt across three generations, on friends and family alike; we experience through its characters changes in taste, morality, and private life in a sequence of vividly rendered episodes: a Sparsholt holiday in Cornwall; eccentric social gatherings at the Dax family home; the adventures of David's son Johnny, a painter in 1970s London; the push and pull in a group of friends brought together by art, literature, and love. And evoking the increasing openness of gay life, The Sparsholt Affair becomes a meditation on human transience, even as it poignantly expresses the longing for permanence and continuity. Witty, tender, epic in scope yet rich in observation, this is a dazzling novel of fathers and sons; of family and home by a writer hailed by The Wall Street Journal as "one of the best novelists at work today."
 

About Alan Hollinghurst

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Alan Hollinghurst is the author of the novels The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star, The Spell and The Line of Beauty, which won the Man Booker Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award, the E. M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. He lives in London.
 
Published March 13, 2018 by Knopf. 432 pages
Genres: History, Romance, Gay & Lesbian, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Sparsholt Affair
All: 8 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
on Dec 10 2017

A novel full of life and perception; you end the book not minding that the actual Sparsholt affair gets just the barest of outlines.

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Star Tribune

Below average
Reviewed by Claude Peck on Mar 20 2018

Brilliant out of the gate and energetically rendered in a wonderful final section, “The Sparsholt Affair” sags in the middle.

Read Full Review of The Sparsholt Affair | See more reviews from Star Tribune

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Adam Kirsch on May 04 2018

As the story moves forward in time, Hollinghurst achieves the kind of symphonic effect we normally associate with much longer books...People we first met as students in the 1940s return in new guises...The effect is moving...

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Mar 12 2018

The truth about “The Sparsholt Affair” is that it is not among this writer’s more successful novels. It is intricately patterned on the sentence level yet moves tentatively, at the rate of afternoon sunlight creeping across a floor.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by James Lasdun on Oct 05 2017

An amazing amount of the passion and folly of the human comedy is woven into his modest life, all of it beautifully observed and memorably articulated. It makes for a looser, freer book than the cunning puzzle of a novel one was led to expect, and almost certainly a better one, too.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Alex Preston on Sep 25 2017

This is an unashamedly readable novel, one that goes out of its way to please; indeed it feels occasionally like Hollinghurst is trying to house all the successful elements of his previous books under the roof of one novel. It’s funnier, more warm-hearted, less waspish than any of his books so far, but still undoubtedly the work of a master.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Mar 17 2018

Like his previous book, The Stranger's Child (2011), Hollinghurst's sixth novel is epic, elegant, and intricately constructed...

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by John Powers on Mar 12 2018

Those books crackle with the rebellious energy that, here, has been harnessed to the more refined ends of a literary master, a master who, in his mid-60s, clearly hears the whispers of his own mortality.

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