Books of the year 2011: Adam Kirsch

The Vices - Lawrence Douglas

 

Three novels made a lasting impression on me this year. The Stranger's Child (Picador, £20) by Alan Hollinghurst is a beautifully executed study of the way tradition - literary, social and sexual - was handed down over the course of the British 20th century. Once again, Hollinghurst proves himself a properly Jamesian writer, one on whom no nuance of behaviour or flicker of consciousness is lost. The Vices (Other Press, $15.95) by Lawrence Douglas is the sharp, stylish, suspenseful tale of Oliver Vice, a charismatic philosopher and art collector, and the provincial academic who falls under his spell. More than a campus novel, it is an elegant parable about the allure of self-invention. And Open City (Faber & Faber, £12.99) the debut novel by Teju Cole, builds a darkly enchanting portrait of New York after the 11 September 2001 attacks, thanks to the evocative power of its narrator's erudite and elusive voice.

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