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Strangers Child - Hollinghurst, Alan

Strangers Child - Hollinghurst, Alan

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Strangers Child by Hollinghurst, Alan

Format: Trade Paperback

Published by Picador, 2012

The Stranger’s Child begins with sixteen-year-old Daphne Sawle sitting in a hammock in the garden of Two Acres, the family home in suburban London. She is making a show of reading Tennyson before her brother George arrives to visit with his Cambridge friend Cecil Valance, a handsome, assured and sometimes outrageous young man with a burgeoning reputation as a poet. After a tantalizing and dramatic weekend Cecil writes a long poem in Daphne’s autograph album as a parting gift. It is titled “Two Acres,” and both Daphne and George (whose feelings for Cecil also go well beyond mere friendship) immediately see how important the poem is – but none of them can foresee the complex and lasting effects it will have on all their lives. 
When the next section of the novel begins, everything has changed: Daphne is married to Cecil’s brother Dudley Valance; George to a historian named Madeleine; and Cecil is dead, killed by a sniper in World War One. A Cabinet officer and man of letters named Sebastian Stokes has come to Corley Court, the Valance family’s country home, to put together an edition of Cecil’s poemsand speak to each family member in turn about him. He is especially curious about Cecil’s personal (and passionate) letters and unpublished poems, papers that seem to have gone missing, and whose absence will loom paradoxically through the rest of the novel.
The book leaps forward and we are at another party, this one to celebrate Daphne’s seventieth birthday. George is now the acclaimed historian G.F. Sawle; Daphne’s son Wilfrid, a charming boy in the previous section, has grown into a nervous and somehow fractured adult. We meet Peter Rowe, a music teacher at the boarding school that now occupies Corley Court, and his boyfriend, Paul Bryant, a bank employee with a feeling for Cecil’s poetry. Soon Paul is taking up an idea that Peter abandoned: to write a biography of Cecil Valance. It means making some startling discoveries about a past that the Valance family would prefer to keep in sepia and shadows.

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