Often one is disappointed when reading an author's earlier works. Not so with Alan Hollinghurst, best known for the Man Booker Prize winner The Line of Beauty in 2004.
In his debut novel The Swimming-Pool Library Hollinghurst shows mastery of elegant descriptive language in a story set about gay life in England before AIDS hit. William Beckwith, a pretty, young aristocrat leading a lesiured life of promiscuity, saves the life of an elderly peer named Charles Nantwich in a public lavatory, leading to a friendship wherein Charles persuades William to write his memoir. That device allows Holllinghust to alternate between two generations of the gay experience -- Will's semi-open decadence contrasted with Charles' more closeted but no less rich life, some of which was spent in Political Service in Africa, chronicled in detailed journal entries.
Literary and erotic at the same time, Hollinghurst builds a slow burning sexual tension throughout without much of a plot until the last few chapters. There one is left wondering how a novel driven mostly by character and beautiful language can seem anti-climatic. Locker rooms, showers, promiscious gay sex might not be everyone's cup of tea, but if it doesn't turn you off then you might want to take a dip in The Swimming-Pool Library.