To nobody’s surprise, The Stranger’s Child stayed good until the very end. It also had some cards up its sleeve until that point as well, which isn’t necessarily a thing that I go for (I’m not reading Encyclopedia Brown, am I) but in this case it underscores something important about the book, and (in my experience) about Hollinghurst.
Unlike The Stranger’s Child, I’ll just come right out and tell you what I’m on about: the book is all about absences. Not content to have gaps in the narrative which inquisitive characters fill in during subsequent pages, the missing elements are promoted to full-blown lacunae, about which the characters struggle between themselves. Because this is the substance rather than a parlor trick, it’s actually deeply satisfying.
Because if its subject (hidden artifacts leading to a revised literary biography for a fake poet), I couldn’t help but be reminded of Possession. This is sort of amusing to me, as I first read Possession for the class in which I also read The Swimming Pool Library.
So I finished Wuthering Heights today, and the last quarter of that book is a total dog. I will note that by that time there were few enough pages that the whole thing didn’t just collapse under its own weight, so it’s still better than Great Expectations, and you should just ignore my mother.
I think I’m finally off this stupid old-book kick. I don’t know what I was thinking letting it go on that long. Moby Dick is awesome, but it isn’t awesome enough to justify reading 2/3 of Great Expectations. I’m all set for the new Hollinghurst novel, The Stranger’s Child.
It’s actually quite strange to me that it has taken so long for me to get around to reading another Hollinghurst novel, because I adored The Swimming Pool Library back at Hampshire. I think that the problem may have been that I studied it very closely for a paper (reading it maybe 4 times through in a month, and certain sections more than that) and I burnt out for a while. I was reminded of him by a couple of press stories recently, and I’m actually looking forward to working back through the rest of his oeuvre.