Review - The Spell by Alan Hollinghurst
Alex travels down to Dorset for a weekend visit to his old boyfriend Justin, who is now ensconced in an idyllic English cottage with his new lover Robin. It's a rather daunting prospect for the rather shy and introverted Alex. Joining the three for the weekend is Robin's son Danny. The weekend itself proves relatively uneventful, but in the months that follow the four mens' lives become intertwined in an evolving, and sometimes revolving, relationship.
“The Spell” has the air of an Edwardian bed-hopping farce about it, although the setting is very 1980s, in the early days of clubs and club drugs. It was also a time when gay men were still largely confined to their own little world, so it's not such an unbelievable stretch that our four main characters seem to move in circles where everyone seems to know, and often slept with, everyone else.
The characters may sound a bit shallow and self-centered, but they're not nearly so one-dimensional. They are, at least at times, conscious of the situations they find themselves in and often display a bit of normal introspection. Like most of us, they're just looking for someone to share their life with.
The characters are not only well drawn, but they're described in a rather neutral fashion that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. Different readers will identify with different characters, and it's likely that your view of the way the various plot lines resolve themselves, or don't, will be different than other readers.
In some ways, “The Spell” is a book of possibilities. People come into our lives, and sometimes we think they're “the one” for us. Sometimes we're right, and sometimes we're wrong. Relationships between people of different ages can be difficult, but sometimes they do work out. Older doesn't necessarily mean wiser, nor does being young automatically make someone immature. The characters in this book display all of these typically human traits.
If it's so good, why three and a half stars? Well, while the writing is very good, the story just didn't hit the mark in the end, for me. As discussed above, different readers will have very different reactions. Some, I know, will love it. Others, not so much.
“The Spell” is available from Amazon.
Posted in Book Reviews on September 2, 2015