In 1940, David Sparsholt arrives at Oxford, his sights set on joining the Royal Air Force. Handsome, athletic, charismatic, he is unaware of his powerful effect on others—especially on Evert Dax, the lonely and romantic son of a celebrated novelist who is destined to become a writer himself. With the world at war, and the Blitz raging in London, Oxford exists at a strange remove: a place of quiet study, but also of secret liaisons under the cover of blackouts. A friendship develops between David and Evert that will influence their lives for decades to come.
Hollinghurst’s astonishing new novel evokes across three generations the intimate relationships of a group of friends brought together by art, literature and love. We witness shifts in taste and morality through a series of vividly rendered episodes: a Sparsholt holiday in Cornwall; eccentric gatherings at the Dax family home; the adventures of David’s son Johnny, a painter in 1970s London. With tenderness, wit and keen insight, The Sparsholt Affair explores the social and sexual revolutions of the past century, even as it takes us straight to the heart of our current age. Richly observed, emotionally charged, this is a dazzling novel of fathers and sons; of family and legacy; and of the longing for permanence amid life’s inevitable transience, by the writer acclaimed in The Wall Street Journal as “one of the best novelists at work today.”