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Extended Audio Sample The Sparsholt Affair Audiobook, by Alan Hollinghurst Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Alan Hollinghurst Narrator: David Dawson Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2018 ISBN: 9780525589020
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From the winner of the Man Booker Prize, a masterly novel that spans seven transformative decades as it plumbs the complex relationships of a remarkable family; an immediate best seller upon its publication in England, hailed by the Observer as “perhaps Hollinghurst’s most beautiful novel yet.”
In 1940, David Sparsholt arrives at Oxford, his sights set on joining the Royal Air Force. Handsome, athletic, charismatic, he is unaware of his powerful effect on others—especially on Evert Dax, the lonely and romantic son of a celebrated novelist who is destined to become a writer himself. With the world at war, and the Blitz raging in London, Oxford exists at a strange remove: a place of quiet study, but also of secret liaisons under the cover of blackouts. A friendship develops between David and Evert that will influence their lives for decades to come.

Hollinghurst’s astonishing new novel evokes across three generations the intimate relationships of a group of friends brought together by art, literature and love.  We witness shifts in taste and morality through a series of vividly rendered episodes: a Sparsholt holiday in Cornwall; eccentric gatherings at the Dax family home; the adventures of David’s son Johnny, a painter in 1970s London. With tenderness, wit and keen insight, The Sparsholt Affair explores the social and sexual revolutions of the past century, even as it takes us straight to the heart of our current age.
Richly observed, emotionally charged, this is a dazzling novel of fathers and sons; of family and legacy; and of the longing for permanence amid life’s inevitable transience, by the writer acclaimed in The Wall Street Journal as “one of the best novelists at work today.”
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Quotes & Awards

  • ★ “Masterful—written in elegant, captivating prose. The story sweeps along in five interlinked sections, in which the characters move through different stages of their lives and their country’s history. Hollinghurst shines a clarifying light on the gay and art worlds through decades of British cultural and political change. In this magnificent novel, Hollinghurst is at the height of his powers. Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)
  • ★ “Thrilling; fascinating . . . a novel full of life and perception. A man’s inability to be honest about his sexuality has scandalous, and brutally public, consequences for several generations. Hollinghurst tracks the vast, transformative changes in gay life over many decades. Part of Hollinghurst's bold talent in this novel, as in his previous work, is to make it evident that lust, sex, and who does what with whom in the bedroom (and even how) are fitting, and insightful, subjects of literary fiction. Kirkus (starred review)
  • Audacious, ambitious . . . an absorbingly complex novel reaching across seven decades, with a sense of lost time in the gaps it leaves. The narrative [is] alert to implicit meanings; Hollinghurst’s achievement is to make those meanings the stuff of all social exchanges. His sentences trust in our intelligence while doing justice to the unknowability of other people. Hollinghurst’s prose delights. John Mullan, The Times (Saturday Review)
  • The Sparsholt Affair is rich in the sense of felt life. Hollinghurst moves with practised ease from moments of pain and puzzlement to scenes rich in comedy, painting a portrait of the ebbs and flows of ideas and moral principles. His voice is leisurely and persuasive, mellifluous and well-mannered; he is also a master of omission. The atmosphere of wartime Oxford is beautifully caught, and the characters exist as individuals in their own right. . . Well-imagined and well-realised. Alan Massie, The Scotsman
  • A multi-part story of a family plunged into scandal that is likely to delight fans of The Line of Beauty. Alice Jones, Top Picks in The Independent
  • Without a doubt, both a highlight of Hollinghurst’s career, and one of the best books of the year. The novel charts the course of three generations of Sparsholts. Hollinghurst moves between times, places, and perspectives with the ease of a true master, any regret I felt at leaving each behind immediately mitigated by the majestic welcome of the next. Lucy Scholes, The Independent
  • Perhaps Hollinghurst’s most beautiful novel yet—a book full of glorious sentences by the greatest prose stylist writing in English today. The Sparsholt Affair is about gay life, about art, about family, but most of all it’s about the remorseless passage of time. There’s always something elegiac about the movement of time in a Hollinghurst novel; there’s an inevitable feeling of sorrow that comes with the end of each section. [Yet] The Sparsholt Affair is funnier and more warm-hearted than any of his books so far. Hollinghurst is wonderful on the ‘beautiful delay’ of university life, on the cloisters and the quadrangles, tentative intimacies building between friends and lovers: he can do an Oxford novel as well as Waugh. An unashamedly readable novel, undoubtedly the work of a master. Alex Preston, The Observer
  • A novelist with a particular genius for inhabiting the past [and] an extraordinary gift for the condensing and enriching detail . . . Hollinghurst can give a tiny history of the high street and a thumbnail sketch of a life-story all in a few dozen words. His evocation of Oxford in wartime is ravishing in its detail, [and] it isn’t only the overtly gorgeous passages that shine . . . Ordinary actions are ushered from one sort of life into another, carried tenderly across in language that is unhurried and precise. [Hollinghurst’s writing] evokes Whistler’s brushwork, Henry James’s prose or Frank Lloyd Wright’s way with a building, but does not recognize a separation between high and low, past and present, glory and disgrace.  With an astonishing responsiveness to light, sound, painting, the past, social nuance, music, sensation, buildings inside and out, the inner life of sentence, he is saturated in the literary past but unhindered by it. Adam Mars-Jones, The London Review of Books
  • Dazzlingly good: the best new novel I’ve read this year. Once again, Hollinghurst is both utterly sumptuous and utterly precise. Perfect scene follows perfect scene; no object in The Sparsholt Affair is too unimportant to receive his full and thrilling attention. Combining broad sweep with plenty of equally impressive close-up analysis, Hollinghurst plunges us into haute bohemia over several decades. He reminds us that yet another of his lavish gifts is for rueful comedy. Hollinghurst is as deft as ever. James Walton, The Spectator
  • This book moves from strength to strength. The immense assurance of the writing, the deep knowledge of the settings and periods in which the story unfolds, the mingling of cruel humour and lyrical tenderness, the insatiable interest in human desire from its most refined to its most brutally carnal, grip you as tightly as any thriller. Hollinghurst layers situations that cumulatively portray a culture as it exists in time as well as in space: a constellation of longings and confusions. The novel keeps pulsing: an amazing amount of the passion and folly of the human comedy is woven in, all of it beautifully observed and memorably articulated. James Lasdun, The Guardian
  • Pure Hollinghurst: a beautifully observed portrait of men and manners. A touchingly upbeat tale, and the dialogue is a joy. Max Davidson, Irish Mail on Sunday “The Best New Fiction”
  • Atmospheric. . . richly textured and alive with ironic wit. The Sparsholt Affair chronicles shifting social, cultural and sexual attitudes over eight decades, tracing twists brought about by the passing years across a broad canvas. Hollinghurst’s alertness to tone and body language is acute. Urbanely satiric scenes entertainingly unroll; suave impalings of vanity are a specialty. An ambitious novel of family, sexuality and art. Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times (UK)
  • Exceptional—a vivid multigenerational tale; an epic exploration of sexuality, social class and scandal. . . A masterful observer of the subtleties of human behavior, Hollinghurst focuses on the shapes of the human heart, and reflects them back at the reader [with] heart-shattering beauty. He can capture a character in a single line, and unearth secrets in a sentence. Uli Lenart, Attitude Magazine (UK)
  • Masterly, evocative—a portrait of life in the UK before and since the decriminalization of homosexuality [from] one of our finest novelists. . . Hollinghurst’s return with a new novel could hardly be better timed. The Sparsholt Affair exposes closeted gay lives of the past, and out gay lives of the present, culminating in a breathtaking description of a night of drugs and dancing in a gay club: a passage that grabs the reader by the sweaty palm and pulls him or her, elated, through the swirling debauch. The novel delineates, with leaps in time and place, shifting tastes in art and culture and social behaviors, changing attitudes to sex and relationships—and to class. As with all Hollinghurst’s work, it is utterly involving, uncannily realized, beautifully written, and very moving. Alex Bilmes, Esquire
  • Hollinghurst is rightly regarded as one of Britain’s finest observers of life. If Jane Austen’s novels were about marriage eligibility, then a Hollinghurstian theme is about another sort of coupling.  [Yet] Austen would recognise his characters, many of whom are posh, privileged, well-educated. From Oxford in 1940 into our age, The Sparsholt Affair captures the changing nature of the homosexual experience as the country moves from shame and criminality to openness [and] dating apps; the most moving parts of the novel are about a man, whose long-term partner has died, being thrust into the [dating] market again, which has been transformed by the internet. Robbie Millen, The Times (UK)
  • Hollinghurst’s novels remind you of the deep pleasures of reading novels. Such is the penetrating clarity of his perception, his ability to convey many layers of experience at once. The Sparsholt Affair is likely to provoke that same flutter of recognition in readers. It’s the story of what happens before and after a sexual-political scandal, and about the lives colored by the affair… Around every episode there’s a thick membrane of social detail. The reflection and refraction of history in this book is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s family saga The Years. The Sparsholt Affair is wider in scope [and] more tender than anything Hollinghurst has written before. Johanna Thomas-Corr, London Evening Standard
  • This is not your usual page-turner: it is a meticulously written, acutely insightful novel about human (mis)behavior, about time and unremitting change, with a skein of skillfully entwined what-happens-next? stories ranging over three generations. The felicities of the prose are unceasing: the observations and apercus are impeccably judged. Hollinghurst can be rigorously analytical one moment, slyly comic the next, erotic, then nostalgic, and subtle. He has his characters to a tee; the humour can ambush us. More movingly, a situation of multiple accumulations can be rendered by a single gesture—and a casual flick of the authorial eye. It would be hard, impossible, to over-praise this novel. Ronald Frame, The Sunday Herald (Glasgow)
  • ★ “Superlatives are made to describe this extraordinary work of fiction. Distinguished . . . a novel notable for its sophistication. The world of art and literature and the evolving world of gay society and culture in Britain [are] brilliantly realized. Hollinghurst is especially good at evoking yearning, and, indeed, his novel will inarguably leave his readers yearning for more. Michael Cart, Booklist (starred review)
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About the Author
Author Alan Hollinghurst

Alan Hollinghurst is the author of The Exploding Star and the Booker Prize–winning novel The Line of Beauty. He has received the Somerset Maugham Award, the E. M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. He lives in London.