In October 1940 the handsome young David Sparsholt arrives in Oxford. A keen athlete and oarsman, he seems at first unaware of the effect he has on others - particularly on the lonely and romantic Evert Dax, son of a celebrated novelist, and himself destined to become a writer. While the Blitz rages in London, Oxford exists at a strange remove from the action: a place of transience, uncertainty, the rigours of the blackout encouraging and concealing unexpected liaisons. Between these two young men of very different backgrounds an unusual friendship develops - one whose consequences will unfold over the following seventy years. Alan Hollinghurst's masterly new novel evokes the intimate lives of three generations of Sparsholts in a sequence of vivid episodes - a childhood holiday in Cornwall, eccentric social gatherings at the Dax family's Chelsea home, the adventures of David's son Johnny in pursuit of love and a career as a painter in 1970s London. Changes in taste, morality and private life are explored in a group portrait of friends brought together by art, literature and love. Novels, buildings and paintings find favour and fall into obscurity with the whims of fashion; while life-changing crises and scandals recede into the past, leaving ambiguous traces. Gay men and women live in increasing freedom and openness, the gay scene itself mutating in time into new forms and possibilities. The Sparsholt Affair emerges as a study in human transience and the countervailing longing for permanence and continuity. As in The Stranger's Child, Hollinghurst's exploration of shifting taste, class and human interaction is wonderfully witty, tender and rich in observation. An unmissable achievement that will be cherished by lifelong fans and new readers alike.
The Sparsholt Affair is the long-awaited sixth novel from the supreme stylist of British fiction and previous winner of the Man Booker Prize. From Oxford during the dark days of the Second world war to contemporary London, this is a masterly novel about sexuality, art and family secrets.
Hollinghurst is a master storyteller ... thrilling in the rather awful way that the best Victorian novels are, so that one finds oneself galloping somewhat shamefacedly through the pages in order to discover what happens next. -- John Banville Hollinghurst can make language do what he wants . . . It makes a lot of contemporary fiction seem thin and underachieving. * Evening Standard * Few writers' prose can throw a party as easily as retire to the library as Hollinghurst's * Spectator * Mr. Hollinghurst's great gift as a novelist is for social satire as sharp and transparent as glass, catching his quarry from an angle just an inch to the left of the view they themselves would catch in the mantelpiece mirror. * The New York Observer *
Alan Hollinghurst is the author of several novels including The Swimming-Pool Library, The Folding Star, The Spell,The Line of Beauty and The Stranger's Child. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction and the 2004 Man Booker Prize. He lives in London.