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The Swimming Pool Library

Written by: Alan Hollinghurst
Narrated by: Samuel West
Length: 12 hrs and 22 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)
Price: CDN$ 26.92
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Publisher's Summary

This novel centres on the friendship of William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, who is searching for someone to write his biography.
©2006 Alan Hollinghurst (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What the critics say

"West has a lot of fun with the waspishly clever dialogue, and, provided you ensure it's not overheard by listeners of delicate sensibilities, this is terrific to listen to." (Karen Robertson, The Sunday Times)

What members say

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  • Here-and-faraway
  • 2013-07-06

Offers Insight

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

It depends on the friend. This book is NOT for everyone. It graphically describes the life of a promiscuous gay man. So if the topic of homosexuality or detailed sex scenes disturb you, then steer clear. Also, black people are almost like fetish objects in this novel. Many of the upper-crust, white British men in the novel are VERY attracted to Africans. Although the wealthy men are genuinely sickened by hate crimes, they also don't quite see black people as "human" either. It's like people from Africa are viewed as some sort of enchanted, mythological creatures to be sought after and adored. I don't want to give the impression that the book centers on race relations, but some of the ways that black people are described made me feel uncomfortable. I think that Hollinghurst purposely did this to further explore the idea of what it's like to be viewed as an "other" in mainstream society.

I would recommend this book to a friend who loves beautiful writing and strong characterization. I would recommend it to a friend who enjoys thinking about things that they've never considered before. Before this novel, I never thought about how so much "homosexual history" was covered up, changed, or never recorded to begin with. Just like in Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child, the idea of what is forgotten and what is chosen to be remembered hangs heavily.

What did you like best about this story?

How it let me see the world through a new set of eyes.

What does Samuel West bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He is a fantastic narrator. All of his characters sound unique and he does a fantastic job with different dialects and accents. Perfect pacing, smooth voice, lovely narration, perfect execution of wit... I would love to hear another story read by him.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes, but I don't want to spoil things for you... There's a part that will stick with me for a long time.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 2012-08-04

Hollinghurst's first and among the best.

If you could sum up The Swimming Pool Library in three words, what would they be?

great period piece

What did you like best about this story?

Listening to it twenty years after reading it made me realize how much I had changed. It's a great description of upper class British life. Hollinghurst's lush writing is in full bloom.

What does Samuel West bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Sam West's narration makes this an good example of listening surpassing reading. His Lord Nantwich is spot on. It's Hollinghurst's ear for British language that provides such great material. Sam brings the fellow to life.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Gay England in the late 20th century.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Peregrine
  • 2011-05-15

Strong stuff

Swimming Pool Library is beautifully written and will give you a vivid picture of the life depicted. As a straight man I endeavored to give all the gay sexuality the same distance I gave the sexuality of "straight" characters whose taste differs from mine--cf. Lolita or anything by Pynchon. But don't think you can just skim over it and get back to the plot. Gay sexuality is THE subject of this book.

Excellent reader.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • AC
  • 2011-12-29

Beautifully Written and Read

This story is about gay life. That is the heart of it. If you are offended by that (and it includes explicit sex) then this is not for you. However, what you will be missing is superb writing and an amazing debut novel which showed what a genius Hollinghurst is. All his books are marvellous, with The Line of Beauty, which won the Booker, being a very worthy winner. There is an audiobook of that which sadly Audible doesn't have but would be fantastic if they got it.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Eric
  • 2018-05-21

Beautiful and dreamlike

This is such a wonderful story of multigenerational gay life, and is beautifully read by Mr. West. The book is cinematic in evoking a time just before AIDS when the gay world was in its nascent revery of youth and beauty. My favorite book in some time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J. A. Vendetti
  • 2017-09-06

A Gay Man's Life : Now and Then

A touching, sensuous story of a modern gay man with harsh realities filling out the picture written in the perspective of the past history of prejudice and injustice toward homosexual men in England. Both sexy and enlightening. Wonderfully narrated by Samuel West.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • ChrisW
  • 2016-01-23

A meandering journey

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The storyline goes on without much point, but the emotion, feeling and self absorption of the main character is very interesting.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • darbscott
  • 2018-10-23

SUPERB WRITING, PERFECT NARRATOR

This has always been one of my favorite novels—its combination of beautifully intelligent writing, lush & frank eroticism, and complex rendering of race and class in both imperial and late 20th century Britain is unsurpassed. But I keep coming back to it for Samuel West’s narration! He never hits a wrong note; every layer of meaning is communicated, and above all he articulates wonderfully the novel’s humor. Audible should have West read Hollinghurst’s THE LINE OF BEAUTY!

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  • Jason
  • 2018-04-21

Magnificent

A lush and honest look at gay life over the last century, and the threads of love that bind us

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  • Marianne
  • 2016-11-10

Beautifully written and timeless story

Would you listen to The Swimming Pool Library again? Why?

Yes, Holinghusrt is a wonderful writer and Sam West is a brilliant reader with a wide ranging ability to express character through his different use of accent.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Swimming Pool Library?

Anything to do with Nantwich, which was very touching.

What about Samuel West’s performance did you like?

His voice and wide range ability of accent, male, female, west Indian, English.

If you could take any character from The Swimming Pool Library out to dinner, who would it be and why?

James, he comes across as charming and knowledgable

Any additional comments?

Please will you ask Sam West to record Holinghust's LINE OF BEAUTY.