Best Fictional Books


'The Line of Beauty', by Alan Hollingsworth (2004)


Youth and economic prosperity share several symptoms--callowness, self-indulgence, and a naive optimism that the good times will last forever. Nick Guest, the main character of Alan Hollinghurst's 2004 Booker-winning  The Line of Beauty, is white, well educated, and breathtakingly young in early '80s London. Thatcher is ascendant, cocaine is plentiful, and AIDS is something that happens to people who have the bad taste to belong to the lower class. Hollinghurst's novel, with its lavish parties, eye for architecture, and arch dialogue, captures the decadence of the era in the same way Evelyn Waugh captured the country's crumbling vanity in the lead-up to World War II--Nick's interloper status among the beautiful set echoes Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited. But Hollinghurst is as prescient as he is past-conscious, and The Line of Beauty could easily  be set two decades later--instead of starting a magazine, Nick and his pampered friends would be launching a blog, and instead of the stock-market crash of '87, they'd be rocked by the mortgage crisis of '08. This is a book that is becoming wiser and more beautiful as it ages--a better fate than the one likely in store for Nick.