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The Stranger's Child (Anglais) Broché – 24 mai 2012

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I

She’d been lying in the hammock reading poetry for over an hour. It wasn’t easy: she was thinking all the while about George coming back with Cecil, and she kept sliding down, in small half-willing surrenders, till she was in a heap, with the book held tiringly above her face. Now the light was going, and the words began to hide among themselves on the page. She wanted to get a look at Cecil, to drink him in for a minute before he saw her, and was introduced, and asked her what she was reading. But he must have missed his train, or at least his connection: she saw him pacing the long platform at Harrow and Wealdstone, and rather regretting he’d come. Five minutes later, as the sunset sky turned pink above the rockery, it began to seem possible that something worse had happened. With sudden grave excitement she pictured the arrival of a telegram, and the news being passed round; imagined weeping pretty wildly; then saw herself describing the occasion to someone, many years later, though still without quite deciding what the news had been.

In the sitting-room the lamps were being lit, and through the open window she could hear her mother talking to Mrs. Kalbeck, who had come to tea, and who tended to stay, having no one to get back for. The glow across the path made the garden suddenly lonelier. Daphne slipped out of the hammock, put on her shoes, and forgot about her books. She started towards the house, but something in the time of day held her, with its hint of a mystery she had so far overlooked: it drew her down the lawn, past the rockery, where the pond that reflected the trees in silhouette had grown as deep as the white sky. It was the long still moment when the hedges and borders turned dusky and vague, but anything she looked at closely, a rose, a begonia, a glossy laurel leaf, seemed to give itself back to the day with a secret throb of colour.

She heard a faint familiar sound, the knock of the broken gate against the post at the bottom of the garden; and then an unfamiliar voice, with an edge to it, and then George’s laugh. He must have brought Cecil the other way, through the Priory and the woods. Daphne ran up the narrow half-hidden steps in the rockery and from the top she could just make them out in the spinney below. She couldn’t really hear what they were saying, but she was disconcerted by Cecil’s voice; it seemed so quickly and decisively to take control of their garden and their house and the whole of the coming weekend. It was an excitable voice that seemed to say it didn’t care who heard it, but in its tone there was also something mocking and superior. She looked back at the house, the dark mass of the roof and the chimney-stacks against the sky, the lamp-lit windows under low eaves, and thought about Monday, and the life they would pick up again very readily after Cecil had gone.

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 realize 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. She knew that Cecil was a guest and too grown-up to play a trick on, though George was surely in her power. But having the power, she couldn’t think what to do with it. Now Cecil had his hand on George’s shoulder, as if consoling him, though he was laughing too, more quietly than before; the curves of their two hats nudged and overlapped. She thought there was something nice in Cecil’s laugh, after all, a little whinny of good fun, even if, as so often, she was not included in the joke. Then Cecil raised his head and saw her and said, “Oh, hello!” as if they’d already met several times and enjoyed it.

George was confused for a second, peered at her as he quickly buttoned his jacket, and said, “Cecil missed his train,” rather sharply. “Well, clearly,” said Daphne, who chose a certain dryness of tone against the constant queasy likelihood of being teased.

“And then of course I had to see Middlesex,” said Cecil, coming forward and shaking her hand. “We seem to have tramped over much of the county.”

“He brought you the country way,” said Daphne. “There’s the country way, and the suburban way, which doesn’t create such a fine impression. You just go straight up Stanmore Hill.”

George wheezed with embarrassment, and also a kind of relief. “There, Cess, you’ve met my sister.”

Cecil’s hand, hot and hard, was still gripping hers, in a frank, convivial way. It was a large hand, and somehow unfeeling; a hand more used to gripping oars and ropes than the slender fingers of sixteen-yearold girls. She took in his smell, of sweat and grass, the sourness of his breath. When she started to pull her fingers out, he squeezed again, for a second or two, before releasing her. She didn’t like the sensation, but in the minute that followed she found that her hand held the memory of his hand, and half-wanted to reach out through the shadows and touch it again.

“I was reading poetry,” she said, “but I’m afraid it grew too dark to see.”

“Ah!” said Cecil, with his quick high laugh, that was almost a snigger; but she sensed he was looking at her kindly. In the late dusk they had to peer closely to be sure of each other’s expressions; it made them seem particularly interested in each other. “Which poet?”

She had Tennyson’s poems, and also the Granta, with three of Cecil’s own poems in it, “Corley,” “Dawn at Corley” and “Corley: Dusk.” She said, “Oh, Alfred, Lord Tennyson.”

Cecil nodded slowly and seemed amused by searching for the kind and lively thing to say. “Do you find he still holds up?” he said.

“Oh yes,” said Daphne firmly, and then wondered if she’d understood the question. She glanced between the lines of trees, but with a sense of other shadowy perspectives, the kind of Cambridge talk that George often treated them to, where things were insisted on that couldn’t possibly be meant. It was a refinement of teasing, where you were never told why your answer was wrong. “We all love Tennyson here,” she said, “at ‘Two Acres.’ ”

Now Cecil’s eyes seemed very playful, under the broad peak of his cap. “Then I can see we shall get on,” he said. “Let’s all read out our favourite poems—if you like to read aloud.”

“Oh yes!” said Daphne, excited already, though she’d never heard Hubert read out anything except a letter in The Times that he agreed with. “Which is your favourite?” she said, with a moment’s worry that she wouldn’t have heard of it.

Cecil smiled at them both, savouring his power of choice, and said, “Well, you’ll find out when I read it to you.”

“I hope it’s not ‘The Lady of Shalott,’ ” said Daphne.

“Oh, I like ‘The Lady of Shalott.’ ”

“I mean, that’s my favourite,” said Daphne.

George said, “Well, come up and meet Mother,” spreading his arms to shepherd them.

“And Mrs. Kalbeck’s here too,” said Daphne, “by the way.”

“Then we’ll try and get rid of her,” said George.

“Well, you can try . . . ,” said Daphne.

“I’m already feeling sorry for Mrs. Kalbeck,” said Cecil, “whoever she may be.”

“She’s a big black beetle,” said George, “who took Mother to Germany last year, and hasn’t let go of her since.”

“She’s a German widow,” said Daphne, with a note of sad realism and a pitying shake of the head. She found Cecil had spread his arms too and, hardly thinking, she did the same; for a moment they seemed united in a lightly rebellious pact.


2


While the maid was removing the tea-things, Freda Sawle stood up and wandered between the small tables and numerous little armchairs to the open window. A few high streaks of cloud glowed pink above the rockery, and the garden itself was stilled in the first grey of the twilight. It was a time of day that played uncomfortably on her feelings. “I suppose my child is straining her eyes out there somewhere,” she said, turning back to the warmer light of the room.

“If she has her poetry books,” said Clara Kalbeck.

“She’s been studying some of Cecil Valance’s poems. She says they are very fine, but not so good as Swinburne or Lord Tennyson.”

“Swinburne . . . ,” said Mrs. Kalbeck, with a wary chuckle.

“All the poems of Cecil’s that I’ve seen have been about his own house. Though George says he has others, of more general interest.”

“I feel I know a good deal about Cecil Valance’s house,” said Clara, with the slight asperity that gave even her nicest remarks an air of sarcasm.

Freda paced the short distance to the musical end of the room, the embrasure with the piano and the dark cabinet of the gramophone. George himself had turned rather critical of “Two Acres” since his visit to Corley Court. He said it had a way of “resolving itself into nooks.” This nook had its own little window, and was spanned by a broad oak beam.

“They’re very late,” said Freda, “though George says Cecil is hopeless about time.”

Clara looked tolerantly at the clock on the mantelpiece. “I think perhaps they are rambling around.”

“Oh, who knows what George is doing with him!” said Freda, and frowned at her own sharp tone.

“He may have lost his connection at Harrow and Wealdstone,” said Clara.

“Quite so,” said Freda; and for a moment the two names, with the pinched vowels, the throaty r, the blurred W that was almost an F, struck her as a tiny emblem of her friend’s claim on England, and Stanmore, and her. She stopped to make adjustments to the framed photographs that stood in an expectant half-circle on a small round table. Dear Frank, in a studio setting, with his hand on another small round table. Hubert in a rowing-boat and George on a pony. She pushed the two of them apart, to give Daphne more prominence. Often she was glad of Clara’s company, and her unselfconscious willingness to sit, for long hours at a time. She was no less good a friend for being a pitiful one. Freda had three children, the telephone, and an upstairs bathroom; Clara had none of these amenities, and it was hard to begrudge her when she laboured up the hill from damp little “Lorelei” in search of talk. Tonight, though, with dinner raising tensions in the kitchen, her staying-put showed a certain insensitivity.

“One can see George is so happy to be having his friend,” said Clara.

“I know,” said Freda, sitting down again with a sudden return of patience. “And of course I’m happy too. Before, he never seemed to have anybody.”

“Perhaps losing a father made him shy,” said Clara. “He wanted only to be with you.”

“Mm, you may be right,” said Freda, piqued by Clara’s wisdom, and touched at the same time by the thought of George’s devotion. “But he’s certainly changing now. I can see it in his walk. And he whistles a great deal, which usually shows that a man’s looking forward to something . . .Of course he loves Cambridge. He loves the life of ideas.” She saw the paths across and around the courts of the colleges as ideas, with the young men following them, through archways, and up staircases. Beyond were the gardens and river-banks, the hazy dazzle of social freedom, where George and his friends stretched out on the grass, or slipped by in punts. She said cautiously, “You know he has been elected to the Conversazione Society.”

“Indeed . . . ,” said Clara, with a vague shake of the head.

“We’re not allowed to know about it. But it’s philosophy, I think. Cecil Valance got him into it. They discuss ideas. I think George said they discuss ‘Does this hearth-rug exist?’ That kind of thing.”

“The big questions,” said Clara.

Freda laughed guiltily and said, “I understand it’s a great honour to be a member.”

“And Cecil is older than George,” said Clara.

“I believe two or three years older, and already quite an expert on some aspect of the Indian Mutiny. Apparently he hopes to be a Fellow of the college.”

“He is offering to help George.”

“Well, I think they’re great friends!”

Clara let a moment pass. “Whatever the reason,” she said, “George is blooming.”

Freda smiled firmly, as she took up her friend’s idea. “I know,” she said. “He’s coming into bloom, at last!” The image was both beautiful and vaguely unsettling. Then Daphne was sticking her head through the window and shouting,

“They’re here!”—sounding furious with them for not knowing.

“Ah, good,” said her mother, standing up again.

“Not a moment too soon,” said Clara Kalbeck, with a dry laugh, as if her own patience had been tried by the wait.

Daphne glanced quickly over her shoulder, before saying, “He’s extremely charming, you know, but he has a rather carrying voice.”

“And so have you, my dear,” said Freda. “Now do go and bring him in.”

“I shall depart,” said Clara, quietly and gravely.

“Oh, nonsense,” said Freda, surrendering as she had suspected she would, and getting up and going into the hall. As it happened Hubert had just got home from work, and was standing at the front door in his bowler hat, almost throwing two brown suitcases into the house. He said,

“I brought these up with me in the van.”

“Oh, they must be Cecil’s,” said Freda. “Yes, ‘C. T. V.,’ look. Do be careful . . .” Her elder son was a well-built boy, with a surprisingly ruddy moustache, but she saw in a moment, in the light of her latest conversation, that he hadn’t yet bloomed, and would surely be completely bald before he had had the chance. She said, “And a most intriguing packet has come for you. Good evening, Hubert.”

“Good evening, Mother,” said Hubert, leaning over the cases to kiss her on the cheek. It was the little dry comedy of their relations, which somehow turned on the fact that Hubert wasn’t lightly amused, perhaps didn’t even know there was anything comic about them. “Is this it?” he said, picking up a small parcel wrapped in shiny red paper. “It looks more like a lady’s thing.”

“Well, so I had hoped,” said his mother, “it’s from Mappin’s—,” as behind her, where the garden door had stood open all day, the others were arriving: waiting a minute outside, in the soft light that spread across the path, George and Cecil arm in arm, gleaming against the dusk, and Daphne just behind, wide-eyed, with a part in the drama, the person who had found them. Freda had a momentary sense of Cecil leading George, rather than George presenting his friend; and Cecil himself, crossing the threshold in his pale linen clothes, with only his hat in his hand, seemed strangely unencumbered. He might have been coming in from his own garden. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

Revue de presse

'Hollinghurst's follow-up to The Line of Beauty, his 2004 Man Booker-Prize winner, is still several months away, but advance word suggests another classic. Following the lives of two families from the eve of WW1 to the close of the 20th century, it promises to be hugely ambitious, deeply affecting and beautifully written. If it's not, we'll eat your copy.' --GQ

'An epic story of two families and two houses spanning the entire 20th century, it promises to enhance its author's claim to the title of best British novelist working at the moment.' --Observer News Review 2011 Preview

'I'm particularly looking forward to the first novel in seven years from Alan Hollinghurst, and the word on the street is that it's every bit as compelling as The Line of Beauty' --Mariella Frostrup, `Stylist' (her number One choice for `2011's Essential Reading')

'Hollinghurst is promising a huge novel for the summer, a tale of two families that ranges from 1913 to the late Noughties.' --Sunday Times 2011 Preview

'I'll definitely be taking Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child, which spans several generations, no doubt in his usual impeccable prose' James Walton
'I'll be packing a copy of Alan Hollinghurst s The Stranger s Child. That's partly because he s the finest prose stylist of his generation, but also because his writing sits so invitingly between the intellectually risky and the sexually risqué' Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
'I loved The Line of Beauty and The Swimming-Pool Library so I am very much looking forward to Alan Hollinghurst s The Stranger's Child, which promises to match his earlier books in both elegance of prose and acuity of psychological insight' Michael Gove --Daily Telegraph's Summer Reading

An intricate, witty, playful meditation on what is now beginning to emerge as one of Hollinghurst s chief concerns: Englishness. Comedy of manners, investigation of class, changing political and social landscape all the reliable pleasures that his fiction offers are here in their dense, detailed richness.... Miraculously handled Hollinghurst set-pieces... It is woven with stupendous deftness, its internal assonances making a complex, comprehensive harmony... A magnificent coherence The Times


Masterful... There is a huge cleverness to the book at a structural and, as it were, managerial level. Characters are named with an aptness which is light-footed and unswervingly accurate... Hollinghurst, as ever, is quietly brilliant about architecture, both in the specific sense of a cultural discourse about buildings, and the broader sense of how people behave in different kinds of place... there is something symphonic about [the novel s] wholeness. There is also something filmic in the book s enveloping embrace; not the heritage cinema of Merchant Ivory et al, but the more experimental, argumentative efforts of the Sixties and Seventies. I often found myself recalling Joseph Losey's version of The Go-Between, and occasionally the anguished exquisites of Michelangelo Antonioni... there s also a lot that is purely and simply very funny Daily Telegraph 4-star review


A showcase for bravura writing. Such praise could be off-putting: the glitter of fine writing often elevates style over substance. Perhaps I should therefore stress straight away that The Stranger s Child is not only written with extraordinary beauty, but is also exceptionally readable and this even though the narrative is fragmented by chronological leaps, the characterisation disrupted by shifts in perspective. The author s imagination is teased by the extent to which we are strangers to each other, and the way in which the past becomes strange to the present. His genius lies in his ability to intrigue the reader, too, suggesting the hinterland of a secret, vivid life, glimpsed out of the corner o --Irish Times

'Opening in 1913, this brilliantly written novel unrolls an almost century-long cavalcade of changing social, sexual and cultural attitudes' --A Top Choice pick in The Sunday Times s Summer Reading feature

'Brilliantly written, intricate... Marvellously acute in its attention to idioms and idiosyncracies, psychological and emotional nuances, the book gives intensely credible life to its swarm of characters. Masterly in its narrative sweep and imaginative depth, this novel about Cecil s increasingly threadbare literary reputation enormously enhances Hollinghurst s own. With The Stranger s Child, an already remarkable talent unfurls into something spectacular --The Sunday Times, Paperback of the Week

'A big, long, absorbing novel that one can get wrapped up in while the outside world goes about its business... Written in prose that s lush, tastefully ornate and as easy to get lost in as the corridors of Cecil s family seat, The Stranger s Child is also graced with a sensuality that s far subtler than Hollinghurst s earlier, more explicit work. It s a change of direction for the author, but one in which he s emerged triumphant' --Herald, Paperback of the Week

'A sharp and extraordinary novel' --Daily Express

'The Stranger s Child is a treasure: few contemporary novels show equal care at the level of structure and line. Sex, war, class, literature, Englishness little is untouched as it sweeps through the 20th century. What better to read over the Jubilee' --The Times

'The first 105 pages are a preternaturally vivid and deliciously readable evocation of Edwardian Britain, which might have been written by E M Forster or Ford Madox Ford... The next section is an equally vivid evocation of Britain in the 1920s; and the next section, Britain in the 1960s; and so on, up to 2008... A novel about time, and change, and art, and sex, and death which is also as light as a soufflé. It s clever, subtle, melancholy and amusing at the same time. I know it s a reviewer s cliché, but I actually did miss my stop on the Tube while reading this' --Independent on Sunday

'Hollinghurst s exquisite rumination on grief, sex and literature' --Sunday Telegraph

'Changing social, sexual and cultural attitudes all contribute but it s the disturbingly insouciant Cecil who drives this excellent novel' --The Lady

'A beautifully told story of love and loss by one of the most highly regarded authors in the country' --Novel of the Week, Suffolk Free Press

'The book is a feat of virtuosity'
--Irish Times

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3.6 étoiles sur 5

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Format: Broché
Alan Hollinghurst's fifth and latest novel, The Stranger's Child, which currently awaits a French translation, is a dazzling addition to his already impressive contribution to contemporary British fiction. His last work, the Booker Prize winner The Line of Beauty, was chiefly set in London in the Thatcher era, and provided readers with an incisive image of what life was life at that particular time and place for a group of intriguing characters spanning a wide range of social categories.

The same thing could be said about this latest novel, though the time frame is much broader, spanning nearly a century, from 1913 to 2008.

The story begins when two Cambridge undergrads, Cecil Valence, a charismatic aristocrat already gaining fame for his lyric poetry, and George Sawle, whose hero-worship of his more illustrious friend goes well beyond the mere platonic, spend a week-end at "Two Acres," the suburban home of the Sawles family. Also present is Daphne, George's sixteen-year-old sister, who falls for Cecil's seductive charm quite as much as her brother, and who, like her brother, sees her interest reciprocated in ways both esthetic and carnal. An elegiac poem entitled "Two Acres," which the versatile Cecil composes during his visit, later becomes a milestone in English literature, though there will always be some doubt as to which of the Sawle siblings was the chief inspiration. Doubt and ambiguity play as important a part in this novel as do plot and character.

The book is divided into sections, five in all, each set in a different era.
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Par Phil-Don TOP 1000 COMMENTATEURS le 23 novembre 2012
Format: Broché
"The Stranger's Child" est un roman qui peut déconcerter en ce sens qu'il n'y a pas d'histoire à proprement parler, ni de personnage central dont on suivrait le parcours. Au lieu de cela, on a une série d'épisodes et de moments s'étendant sur presqu'un siècle avec des personnages plus ou moins récurrents.

Tout commence quand George présente à sa famille son ami d'université, Cecil, poète à la célébrité naissante. Daphné, la jeune soeur encore naïve de George, tombe sous le charme du jeunehomme. Cet épisode trouvera des échos dans tout le reste du livre, avec sa part de vérité et de non-dits, de secrets et de mensonges.

Le livre est très bien écrit et nous rappelle par moments Evelyn Waugh et E.M. Forster. c'est aussi un livre riche - sans être indigeste - abordant subtilement une multitude de thèmes. Pour ma part, j'ai trouvé l'ensemble fascinant.

(J'avais aussi beaucoup aimé "Te Line of Beauty" du même auteur, mais avais été moins enthousiaste pour "The Spell" et "The Folding Star", que j'estimais pas assez grand public. Certes, on retrouve dans "The Stranger's Child" le thème de l'homosexualité, mais de façon plus contenue, moins obsessionnelle. De même, pour la première fois, Alan Hollinghurst ne décrit pas maintes scènes de sexe - ce que je troue être plus en accord avec l'écriture classique du roman.)
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Par joch le 27 septembre 2012
Format: Format Kindle
I agree with 2 of the comments, this book was immensely disappointing especially if you read the gushing praise from every critic in England on the cover.
The plot was stretched to breaking point,the most interesting character is dead almost immediately and the interesting elements of the first few chapters are barely explored while a host of fairly pointless characters take over. I kept reading thinking I was missing something. I got to the the last chapter and then faced the fact that I just didn't care enough to finish it.
I don't always need a plot, I like Virginia Woolf for God's sake but I need a bit of soul and I couldn't find it here. I might not have been so harsh I suppose if the reviews hadn't been so hysterically raving...
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Nostalgic for a byegone era where etiquette, class and education took precedence over all else. Hollinghurst's time-skipping novel takes us through an England pre and post world wars, through to the latter decades of the 20th century using a host of narrators all cleverly linked to the original family of 1913, when the stranger's child comes to visit Two Acres. A sort of Brideshead Re-Revisited, with an impressive conclusion on how attitudes and liberties have changed throughout the course of a century to give way to the progressiveness of modern society. This book is a hugely enjoyable read, with its lively characters and a rich and entertaining narrative guiding the reader through 4 generations of love, loss and friendship. A pleasure to recommend.
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J'ai beaucoup aimé The Stranger's Child de Alan Hollinghurst pour sa maîtrise étonnante de la langue anglaise, il y a longtemps que je n'avais lu un livre aussi bien écrit..... J'ai aimé l'intrigue qui vous emballe jusqu'au bout, intéressant de rechercher les allusions incluses..... J'ai moins aimé les personnages.... mais super livre...
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