Cover image for The spell
The spell
Hollinghurst, Alan.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1999.

Physical Description:
257 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Chatto & Windus, 1998.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Alan Hollinghurst's tour-de-force debut, The Swimming-Pool Library, was a literary sensation. Edmund White called it "the best book on gay life yet written by an English author." The Village Voice described it as "buoyant, smart, irrepressibly sexy...Awith the? heft and resonance of a classic modernist novel." The New York Times Book Review raved about its "shimmering elegance" and "camp-fired wit." The New York Review of Books dubbed his second book, The Folding Star, a "miniature Remembrance of Things expanded Death in Venice...a homosexual Lolita."The Spell is Hollinghurst's most polished and entertaining novel to date. Here he marries Jane Austen's delicious social asperity with a sly eroticism in a story as romantic and surprising as anything he has written. Set in London and the idyllic countryside, the narrative tracks the interlocking passions of four men. As each character falls successively under the spell of love or drugs, country living or urban glamour, The Spell unfurls into a richly witty picture of modern gay life...and of all human affairs of the heart.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Confirming his status as the preeminent new voice chronicling the worldly, debauched erotics of linguistically limber gay British men, Hollinghurst (The Swimming-Pool Library; The Folding Star, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize) explores London's drug-addled discos and Dorset's country charms. This colorful and often breathtakingly eloquent novel follows the lives of four gay men in the late '90s. After his longtime lover dies from AIDS, Robin Woodfield, "big and fit and handsomely unshaven"Äand at 46 still scoring with much younger menÄsets up house with the utterly selfish and duplicitous (though of course fetching) 35-year-old Justin. The two had been meeting for regular and "fierce speechless sex" in a public loo during the degeneration of Justin's relationship with the decent, tender and very handsome Alex. But Alex isn't exactly dumped. He spends a weekend at the Dorset cottage with the lovebirds, and succumbs to the sexual charm of another Woodfield, Robin's randy gay son, Danny. Alcohol, drugs and a high-camp combination of butch bravado and queenly preening keep the social wheels lubricated. A witty and ingenious writer, Hollinghurst weaves prose that shifts deftly from steamy sex to genteel country living, from edgy cocaine-fed conversations to delicately sensuous observations about the "tussocky hillside" or "crowded dim moons of cow-parsley." He also conveys a significant empathy for the perennial struggle of urban gay men to find true love without forfeiting their sexual autonomy. The author excels at pithy character portraits, and his keen observations of human nature (gay and otherwise) give a depth and realism even to the bit players in this marvelous tale. Agent, Aitken & Stone. BOMC selection; author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Set mostly in the English countryside, Hollinghursts third novel dices the complicated, jumbled lives of his four main gay characters: father and son and their new partners (who are ex-lovers). A wry novel of manners in the fashion of Jane Austens work, this novel through its omniscient point of view, exposes these stressed Londoners as they protect the ones they love (presumably each other, but certainly themselves) with small lies and little omissions. Their mixed-up relationships and compromised interests find perfect expression in the tangled garden they have no time to tend. Hollinghurst has a deft authorial hand (a game of Scrabble turns into a scene of internal fulmination and an outward display of social power). This novel firmly establishes the author after his first works: The Swimming Pool Library (LJ 9/1/88) and The Folding Star (LJ 10/1/94). Recommended for public and academic libraries and for specialized collections of gay literature.Roger W. Durbin, Univ. of Akron, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.