Share for friends:

The Folding Star (2005)

The Folding Star (2005)

Book Info

3.7 of 5 Votes: 4
Your rating
1596910038 (ISBN13: 9781596910034)
bloomsbury usa

About book The Folding Star (2005)

With this, Alan Hollinghurst becomes my favorite living novelist. For me the phrase means a feeling of excitement about what someone will write in the future, what new domains of experience they’ll claim. Martin Amis and Edmund White do not evoke this feeling any longer, though I love them; Updike did, if in his last decade only journalistically. I enjoyed Updike’s testimony as a still-acute American elder, his comments on epoch-defining public events—-9/11, the historic election of an African-American president, the return of hard economic times evocative, in speculative origin if not quite in severity and extent, of those that exerted a formative force on his youth and genius. Though I found The Swimming Pool Library and The Line of Beauty uniquely accomplished, The Folding Star is the first to get me all Trilling-esque: here’s the novel as the “bright book of life”; the rightfully dominant genre, the literary register of our times; the dense, dramatic, life-like union-place of all moral, sensory, and intellectual attentions. Hollinghurst has said he reveres Nabokov (with Proust and James) as one of his “grand and shadowy” masters, and both showcase the intellectual sensualism of the truly, the tirelessly responsive. Like Nabokov’s, Hollinghurst’s prose can go anywhere. He can trace the poetic contour of any event, action or situation. His descriptions do justice to a sleepy Flemish museum: I felt a little out of step among the chaste northern saints and inward-looking Virgins—-there wasn’t one of them that welcomed you or held your gaze as the dark-eyed Italian gods and holy men so often did. Absurd, but I wanted a greeting, even across five hundred years. Here everyone looked down or away, in gestures of reproachful purity. The pious, unflattering portraits, too, of capped and wimpled worthies, were proudly abstinent. They drew respectful crowds of Sunday couples in rustling waterproofs (the day had made an uncertain start). to music played at a funeral:The organist was wittering on through his formless and infinitely extendable introit, music that had never been written down, mere sour doodlings to fill the time, varied now and then by a yawning change of registration like a false alert. to fucking:I’d used up all the lube Cherif had left in the jar, but I saw tears slide from the corners of his eyes, his upper lip curled back in a gesture like anguish or goaded aggression. His hand flickered up against my chest to stay me or slow me. I was mad with love; and only half –aware, as the rhythm of the fuck took hold, of a deaf desire to hurt him, to watch a punishment inflicted and pay him back for what he’d done to me, the expense and humiliations of so many weeks. I saw the pleasure start up inside for him, as if he didn’t expect it, his cock grew hard again in two seconds, his mouth slackened, but I made him flinch with steeper little thrusts. I was up on the chair, fucking him like a squaddy doing push-ups, ten, twenty, fifty…I had a dim sense of protest, postponed as if he wasn’t quite sure, he was folded in two, powerless, the breath was pushed out of him, there was just the slicked and rubbered pumping of my cock in his arse, his little stoppered farts. His chest, his face, were smeared with sweat, but it was mine: the water poured off me like a boxer, my soaked hair fell forward and stung my eyes. The narrator, Edward, is a thirtysomething Englishman giving private English lessons in a secretive and sleepy Belgian town. He’s another one of Hollinghurst’s all-noting aesthetes, excitable, passionate even...but ever-spectatorial, and poetically melancholic; he’s transfixed Lolita-ishly, Death in Venice-ishly, by a much younger man. Whereas Nabokov’s prose is more obviously bejeweled and striking even when abstracted anthologically, most of Hollinghurst‘s best passages tie together, with precise images of a dreamlike suggestiveness, ideas that have been slowly accruing to the context. He has a great way of suddenly taking up, in a significant handful, all the themes coursing through the book. Even his gorgeous patches are set-pieces that spread over several pages. A particular high point is a magnificently extended scene in which Edward and another pupil, not the boy he's obsessed with, search a dilapidated country house, a disused sybarite’s retreat in which they think the runaway Luc might be squatting. It was just the time to see the place, not the kind of dawn Luc’s grandfather had named the house for or would ever have witnessed there, cold skies above drenched wilderness; though there were hints of classic pleasures, a cloud on the lake just big enough to clothe a god in a fresco stooping on a sex-quest. I’d lost Marcel; I wandered down towards the water, reluctantly moved by the relics of all this fake galanterie, my mind vaguely in summer, though a cold gust insisted it was December and made me twitch up Luc’s jacket-collar. I turned back and saw the tiny top windows of the tower colour in the early sun, as though lanterns burnt in them. ...the boards had been ripped from the windows, brambles quested in.Hollinghurst is capable of motions whose replete stateliness put me in mind not only of Nabokov, but, at times, of Browne and of Gibbon.

Alan Hollinghurst writes sublimely. I have gushed about his prose in my reviews of all his novels, and this one was no exception. It is also the last of his novels that I read (so Alan, please be writing a new novel, preferably one that is thematically along the lines of The Stranger’s Child). In this novel, we meet Edward Manners (a name akin to Nick Guest from The Line of Beauty), who is an Englishman abroad, a tutor to two young men in a Flemish town, one of whom he falls hopelessly in love with. The novel centers on his obsession with young Luc but also, somehow, revolves around the life and art of an obscure artist, Edgar Orst, whose curator and admirer at the local museum is the father of Edward’s other pupil, Marcel. I say loosely because it takes hundreds of pages before this small link is established and it remained very loose indeed to me.I occasionally thought of rating the novel four stars. The writing is consistently five stars – as in his other novels. Although Hollinghurst began his writing life as a poet, his writing isn’t heavily lyrical to me; he doesn’t pile on the adjectives or add unnecessary picturesque descriptions. Rather, he intensifies situations psychologically, adding depth and meaning and nuances, and that, to me, is his great skill. For instance:Meeting them both was like meeting filmstars, their aura and beauty put weights on your tongue.I didn’t see how he could be unaware of my feelings, which seemed to blunder and rebound around the room, hardly daring to fix upon their object.My fury halted and trod air for a moment (…)The beauty of his writing nonetheless failed to impart to me a story that I could fully immerse myself in, characters that I could wonder and care about. It was dull going at times; a good enough story stretched too thin over too many pages. (There was an interesting intermezzo in England in the middle where we got a lot of back story with more punch and heart, which had me turning the pages faster, though the real story was the rather more elaborate and long-winded frame story in Belgium). As in most of his other novels, though not his latest, I felt there was too limited a focus on sex. Unlike Forster, whom Hollinghurst wrote his thesis on, he rarely focuses on other human relations than the main character and some love/sex object of his, which becomes a bit tedious. In his first four novels, there is a lot of hanging out in bars, picking up some guy and having some gratuitous sex. The love/sex angle is in itself not uninteresting, but his treatment of it becomes a bit repetitive. Because his prose is so gorgeous be would be able to explore any topic, or at least widen the thematic field, and I hope he will make the most of what I consider to be the best contemporary English prose around. Although his stories don’t linger with me, I am prepared to read anything Alan Hollinghurst writes.

Do You like book The Folding Star (2005)?

If the second part of this book had continued as slowly and boringly as the first part, the rating would have been even lower. For much of it, I felt as if I was slogging through only to get to the end -- a feeling similar to the one I felt during much of The Line of Beauty. Both, though, made it worth it to read to the end, although SPOILER ALERT I found that Hollinghurst's dismissal of the character of Luc from The Folding Star so abruptly and somewhat mysteriously and also somewhat pointlessly was just an easy way to get around having to write through Luc and Edward's post-coital awkwardness. This was rife with Hollinghurst's characteristic lasciviousness and what I'll call sexual detail.
—Nick Stagliano

I read reviews on this story that found the main character disturbing and the story overly dark. Alan Hollinghurst has always captivated me with his stories; his writing reminds me of many classics. His characters are complex and often self-destructive, which can be difficult to read. I did like the main character in this story, I felt for the depth of his obsession and disappointment at not attaining the affection he sought. However, as much I liked this novel, it is not one with a happy ending. Honestly, the ending has me perplexed, it could read in several different ways. So, perhaps intended creative interpretation left to the reader? There is also more than one story happening in this novel, and I read reviews where readers did not feel the parallel stories necessary. To me, the other story line supported how the main character,so distracted by obsession, that he never pursued another more easily attained and sustainable relationship. Fluid writing and haunting imagery.

It is impossible to review this novel without at least some comparison to Alan Hollinghurst's other novels. Since I'm going to do that anyway, I will state that this is in my opinion the best written and most memorable of his novels so far. The Folding Star scores low ratings in reviews for two things: its flawed characters and its divergence from the main plotline. Both factors are characteristics of Hollinghurst's writing. I scored the novel highly because of the characters. With today's self-gratifying novel, full of characters that surmount their inner demons and that, in so doing, satisfy the reader's search for some self-redemption, we forget that real people aren't like that. The world is full of flawed people, of hypocritical, selfish, self-centred people, and most of these people are not remotely interested in a good vs evil quest. Alan Hollinghurst's characters embody this. They are all self-centred in their own way. The novel is written in the third person focused perspective, and as such we get sufficient distance that Edward, the protagonist, can poke gentle fun and irony at himself, but at the same time, through narrator's bias, the world that comes through is very much the world that Edward sees. This is a good choice to portray the story of his obsession with his pupil, and its ridiculous escalation into risks taken all for the sake of satisfying this obsession. Hollinghurst isn't trying to be impartial, nor is he condoning anything here. He's simply telling the reader the story through Edward's eyes. He'd write a psychopath beautifully, although that's not his avenue - but anyway, I digress. Edward is not your perfect hero who will battle evil and triumph at the end of the novel. So if that's what you were looking for, stop right here. All the characters are very real and three-dimensional, and in fact if you pay close attention to everything that goes on, you can actually tease out all the hidden stories within the story long before Hollinghurst reveals anything - and you can therefore work out the significance of the ending. Edward, completely blinded, notes none of this, so it will escape the reader's notice, too, but nonetheless it is all there, and it is this which makes this novel perfect: the fact that when you go back and read between the lines, you realise that there is a whole other story there. What really detracts from the story is the side story that comes in about Orst. Yes, I understand that the parallel was the whole point, but nonetheless the plot really stagnated there. This is a problem that I have found in all of Alan Hollinhurst's novels so far. You can help but want to chop out these parts, and watch the resulting thing flow flawlessly. I would love to see a Hollinghurst novel where there isn't an escapade into somebody else's story because, frankly, with how tightly the web is woven about the protagonist, the reader cares nothing for the side story. All in all, a fantastic story from an incredibly gifted writer. May I point out that the choice of third person focused narrative works incredibly - far better than the first person narrative of the preceding novel, where Hollinghurst was less able to slip in little hints that reveal the undercurrents in the story. There is no shockingly original plot idea here. But there is a shockingly original crafting here. For the sake of fine literature, this is a book to be read. And I trust that by now readers know that Hollinghurst's books are full of explicit sex.

download or read online

Read Online

Write Review

(Review will shown on site after approval)

Other books by author Alan Hollinghurst

Other books in category Food & Cookbooks