The media reception of Alan Hollinghurst’s win did The Line of Beauty a great disservice. There was far more to the book than it simply being ‘the first gay novel’ to win the prize.

Previous Booker Prize winners such as William Golding’s Rites of Passage and Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road had included sympathetic portrayals of homosexuality, but Hollinghurst’s stylish tale put gayness front and centre.

Although the sex and snorting of its earlier companion piece The Swimming-Pool Library are present and correct, the novel is as much about the febrile atmosphere of the 1980s, with the travails of its hero, Nick Guest, set in the age of Mrs Thatcher, Aids and class privilege. 

Alan Hollinghurst
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Alan Hollinghurst portrays a ruthless decade through Nick, an increasingly-less-innocent abroad, as he gets caught up in the boom years of the 80s.

The Shortlist

The Line of Beauty
Prize winner
Bitter Fruit
The Electric Michaelangelo
Cloud Atlas
The Master
I'll Go to Bed at Noon

The Longlist

The 2004 judges