The Sparsholt Affair

The Sparsholt Affair

eBook - 2017
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"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."-- Provided by publisher.
"A multi-generational story of fathers and sons during the second half of the twentieth century in England"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2017
Edition: First United States edition
ISBN: 9781101874585
Branch Call Number: E-BOOK
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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Jan 10, 2020

First of all I feel that I was tricked into reading this book. The title is the "Sparsholt Affair", but this event is only alluded to with minor comments. All the information about the "affair" would fill at most 2 pages out of more than 400. We know that it involved British government officials and that David went to prison. It is always referred to as the "Sparsholt Affair" in the same way as one might mention the "Profumo Affair". I understand that the book shows the evolution of attitudes toward homosexuality over decades, buy why did the author name the book the "Sparsholt Affair" if he is never going to tell you about it. Second of all, the publisher information leads one ( led me ) to believe that we would know about David during WWII as a RAF squadron leader. I am particularly interested in this era. The WWII content might make up a page. The setting for the initial encounters with the characters just happens to be 1940. **** So I am determinedly reading and reading this book hoping for knowledge of the "Affair" - the cause cé·​lè·​bre - and becoming more and more frustrated. Perhaps this tainted my feelings about the book, but one of my measures of an author "communicating" with me is whether or not I bond with a main character or at least one person in the narrative. I liked Johnny sometimes, but other times I found him to be a narcissistic man with poor judgment. The only person I really cared about in the story ( other than the war hero father, David, of the "affair" ) was Lucy, Johnny's daughter. I don't know why he became a "father" since he shows little love for her. He exposes her as a young girl to gay friends who behave abominably around her and allows her to see him using drugs. He drags her through art museums because she is "interested in art", but she is quickly bored as the venues are not exactly child oriented. None of these factors nominate him for father of the year. Then we have Johnny's "affairs". Most are casual; some involve a relationship of minutes or hours. Never once does the book speak of protection. Are we supposed to believe that the history of gay relationships and attitudes over 60 years are all sweetness and light with no risks? I didn't know that the AIDS epidemic never reached Britain.... I believe this is irresponsible. Johnny finally marries, but this "intimate" relationship, as opposed to the casual affairs merits only about a page. This entire book seems terrified of intimacy in the true nature of a loving relationship. I will grudgingly admit that Hollinghurst often writes beautifully ( though he does not use pronouns correctly - I am not referring to they v.s. he/ she, but rather "David was taller than him. No David was taller than HE was. ). Unfortunately excellent paragraphs do not a great novel make. Very disappointed. Kristi & Abby Tabby

Nov 18, 2019

didn't like it

old boys school


Sep 05, 2019

A sensitive portrayal of the changing moral climate, especially for gay people, in Britain from WWII to the present, along with a rich commentary on the evolution of the arts scene. A bit of knowledge about artists like Walter Sickert does make access a less formidable. He is certainly a writer's writer.

Apr 14, 2019

Having read all of Hollinghurst's earlier works, I suppose I was expecting another Line of Beauty or even Swimming Pool Library, something of that calibre. I could not get past about 20% the ebook on two attempts. This time his obsessions obscured any point to continue reading for what we are told are 70 years more. Honesty all I could think about were my ancestors and the pain, death and deprivation they experienced during wartime England. I would not discourage anyone from reading this book, my expectations and family memories discouraged me to read on.

Feb 08, 2018

Let me begin by saying that Hollinghurst's prose, although at times fragmented, proves to be beautiful and nothing short of exquisite. The reader can imagine being there. This novel covers a period of roughly 70 years in the life of fathers and sons, from WWII to the present. The first part finds one of the main characters, David Sparsholt, at Oxford where he attracts much attention from his entourage. I loved these 100 pages and was excited about reading the rest but I found it difficult to sort out. The titular "affair" is never fully explained but seems to hover in the background a great deal of the time. Art and homosexuality are frequent and important threads but relationships of fathers and sons are foremost. Hollinghurst is the Man Booker Prize winner for 2004 for The Line of Beauty. I would certainly like to read more of this author's work.


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