Alan Hollinghurst’s latest novel is The Sparsholt Affair. (December 2018)

IN THE REVIEW

The Impersonator

Former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe leaving the Old Bailey with his wife, Marion, after he was found not guilty of conspiracy to murder, London, June 1979

A Very English Scandal

a television series written by Russell T. Davies and directed by Stephen Frears
The major surprise of Jeremy Thorpe’s trial in 1979 for conspiracy to murder was his decision not to take the stand—it seems that his counsel, alert to his client’s histrionic tendencies, foresaw the dangers of Oscar Wilde–like showing-off and self-incrimination. No witnesses were called for the defense, and the narrative of events concerning Thorpe was entirely established by the prosecution: his affair, as a young MP in the early 1960s, with a stable hand and model named Norman Scott; Scott’s repeated attempts to go public with the story (all firmly smothered by the police as well as the press); and the subsequent conspiracy to murder Scott, who had become a threat not only to Thorpe but to the Liberal Party of which he was by then the leader. The defense’s case consisted simply of discrediting the prosecution’s witnesses.

Artifice and Actuality

Henry Green; photograph by Cecil Beaton

Blindness

by Henry Green, with an introduction by Daniel Mendelsohn

Living

with an introduction by Adam Thirlwell
Henry Green’s novels, with their one-word titles and uniform dimensions, can create an impression of sameness, but anyone who reads just two of his books will find them to be wonderfully different. Doting (set in post–World War II London) is as unlike Loving (set in an Irish country house) as …

Serious, Silly, Charming, & Heartless

Lord Berners, Robert Heber-Percy with his daughter Victoria, and Jennifer Fry in the drawing room at Faringdon, Berkshire, September 1943; photograph by Cecil Beaton

The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me: An Aristocratic Family, a High-Society Scandal and an Extraordinary Legacy

by Sofka Zinovieff
It was an oddity of growing up in the small Berkshire town of Faringdon in the 1950s that Lord Berners’s name was often mentioned. He was, in a way, a part of the landscape. A tall slender tower on a hill at the edge of the town was the goal …

The Victory of Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald, 1986

The Bookshop

by Penelope Fitzgerald

Offshore

by Penelope Fitzgerald, with an introduction by Alan Hollinghurst
Penelope Fitzgerald published her first book, a biography of the artist Edward Burne-Jones, when she was fifty-eight; her first novel appeared when she was sixty. She was, as she said, “an old writer who had never been a young one.”

Grief, Rage, Cognac, and a Computer

Peter Carey, New York City, 2011

The Chemistry of Tears

by Peter Carey
Peter Carey is an astonishing capturer of likenesses—not only in the sense of the portrait (the “good likeness”), but of the teeming similitudes with which a sharp eye and a rich memory discern and describe the world. Simile and metaphor, which are at the heart of poetry, are a less certain presence in prose fiction, in some novelists barely deployed at all, but in Dickens, for instance (with whom Carey is repeatedly compared), they are vital and unresting elements of the novelist’s vision.

A World Cracked Open

Michael Cunningham, New York City, 1999

By Nightfall

by Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham’s novels have tended to be airy, open structures, covering large spans of time and space. They are narrative experiments, multivoiced and wide-ranging, with a romantic sense of the adventure of the inner life and a brilliant eye for the details of the everyday world; it is not surprising …

Underground Men

Netherland

by Joseph O’Neill
What is “Netherland,” the strange-but-familiar compound that Joseph O’Neill has made the title of his captivating new novel? At its plainest, perhaps, it’s a singular bit of the Netherlands, the country from which the narrator, Hans van den Broek, arrived in the late 1990s, via London, as an equities analyst …