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The Spell is a comedy of sexual manners that follows the interlocking affairs of four men: Robin, an architect in his late forties, who is trying to build an idyllic life in Dorset with his younger lover, Justin; Robin's 22 year old son Danny, a volatile beauty who lives for clubbing and casual sex; and the shy Alex, who is Justin's ex-boyfriend. As each in turn falls under the spell of romance or drugs, country living or rough trade, a richly ironic picture emerges of the clashing imperatives of modern gay life. At once lyrical, sceptical and romantic, The Spell confirms Alan Hollinghurst as one of Britain's most important novelists. From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Line of Beauty.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099276944
ISBN-10: 0099276941
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 17mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 3-Jun-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Hollinghurst's novel centres on the lives of four gay men. The characters move between the drug-taking world of the London club scene and a would-be pastoral idyll. This captures perfectly what it is like to be passionately in love, and the fragility of homosexual relationships. Both gently comic and serious. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Like The Swimming Pool Library (1988) and The Folding Star (1994), Hollinghurst's third attempts an ambitious exploration of gay male experiences and relationships. Each of four principal characters muddles along (in London and environs) professionally, socially, and romantically, in the grip of his own distinctive obsession (or "spell"). Late-40ish architect Robin Woodfield, mourning the death from AIDS of his lover Simon, seeks another erotic counterpart to "the secret technical joy he had always got from buildings." Robin's younger new lover Justin is a campy flibbertigibbet who's less attentive either to Robin or to his own ex, Alex, than to the sybaritic freedom gained when he comes into a huge inheritance. Alex, a gentle and passive soul who works for the Foreign Office, is betrayed repeatedly by his naive dream of perfect love - most cruelly by Robin's son Danny, a heedlessly beautiful youth driven by his "blind desire to know the world through sex." Moving confidently (if at times lugubriously) among their several viewpoints, Hollinghurst brings these four (and also acquaintances such as the handsome young workingman who plays them all expertly) into and out of varying degrees of intimacy and commitment, dramatized most successfully in several crisply observed scenes that include the comic saturnalia of Danny's 23rd party, a tea-party discussion of campanology (the subtext of which is, predictably, sex), and, especially, Robin's uncomfortable conversation with an intense young evangelist who claims to have channeled the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. More such scenes would have helped, since the minimal comic relief provided by Justin's bitchy wit is vitiated by our growing understanding of his essential shallowness and selfishness. This is, in fact, never less than honest and realistic; but it feels limited and insular to the extent that its characters seem defined - and limited - by their sexual natures. A near miss: Hollinghurst can do better. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Alan Hollinghurst

Alan Hollinghurst was born in 1954. He is the author of one of the most highly praised first novels to appear in the 1980s, The Swimming-Pool Library (1988), and was selected as one of the Best Young British Novelists 1993. His second novel, The Folding Star, won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize and The Line of Beauty won the Booker Prize in 2004.

Books By Author Alan Hollinghurst

Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst

The Swimming Pool Library

Paperback, July 2015
Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

The Line of Beauty

Paperback, January 2015
Offshore by Alan Hollinghurst


Paperback / softback, October 2014
Berenice and Bajazet by Alan Hollinghurst

Berenice and Bajazet

Paperback, October 2012