The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Published by: Picador Books on April 16, 2004
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)
In early 1980s London, Nick Guest walks an interestingly fine line. He’s a postgraduate student lodging with the family of a member of parliament. He’s gay. And he’s not entirely closed off about it. But the family is accepting, so it all seems okay.
But even in the 80s, prejudice against gays was more than just the norm. Many of the guys that Nick finds are still closeted themselves. And Nick finds himself having to make some choices about the men he chooses to be with. Secrets aren’t uncommon in Nick’s world, but he’s not usually the one who is keeping them.
Add to that the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, and Nick certainly faces some challenges. But he’s not going to let them hold him back from living his life.
But Nick might just find that when one lives in a house of cards, it just takes a light breeze for it all to come crashing down.
I saw the film version of this a few years ago, and I’m still trying to decide if I liked that or the book better. What I do like about this story is that it’s one that’s not usually told. Yes, there are plenty of historical novels that take place in London. And there are many m/m stories that take place in the 80s and address the AIDS epidemic. But I feel like this may be the first I’ve read that combines both. Most stories on that topic I’ve read seem to be US-based.
There’s also something about Nick’s tentative status as observer/participant that makes this one resonate for me. There are those moments in live where we find ourselves in a place where we’re not entirely sure why we’re there. We feel a bit out of our element. It’s not our world, but now we live in it. And at those times, it can be hard to figure out how to fit in. This is one of those stories.