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The Stranger's Child

by Alan Hollinghurst

A fine portrait of English life from 1913 to the 80s. The characters are linked through their fascination with poet, Cecil Valance, killed early in WW1 and his sister-in-law, Daphne, who links the past and present. Told from differing viewpoints by Valance's aficionados, it gives an insight into changing social attitudes during the period - particularly towards homosexuality - and celebrity. Magnificently plotted and beautifully written.

Extract

Under the trees the dusk was deeper, and their little wood seemed interestingly larger. The boys were dawdling, for all Cecil's note of impatience. Their pale clothes, the rim of George's boater, caught the failing light as they moved slowly between the birch-trunks, but their faces were hard to make out. George had stopped and was poking at something with his foot, Cecil, taller, standing close beside him, as if to share his view of it. She went cautiously towards them, and it took her a moment to realise that they were quite unaware of her, she stood still, smiling awkwardly, let out an anxious gasp, and then, mystified and excited, began to explore her position.

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