Listen free for 30 days

The Swimming Pool Library

Narrated by: Samuel West
Length: 12 hrs and 22 mins
Categories: Fiction, Gay & Lesbian
4.5 out of 5 stars (197 ratings)

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

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.

Critic reviews

"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
Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    115
  • 4 Stars
    48
  • 3 Stars
    23
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    4
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    110
  • 4 Stars
    20
  • 3 Stars
    9
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    74
  • 4 Stars
    38
  • 3 Stars
    21
  • 2 Stars
    4
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Gay lit. of the highest order

Alan Hollinghurst cleverly structures his story to provide a representation of homosexual lives over several generations. Older gay men reading this novel will recognise the signs of the changing times and, I hope, rejoice at the emergence of freedoms so abundantly enjoyed by the likes of the narrator.

I do not agree with the previous reviewer that the sex scenes are done in "the best possible taste". They are described realistically and honestly in the way that such scenes rarely are, be the fiction gay or straight. No adult should be shocked by the acts, but rather by the honesty.

Samuel West's reading is sympathetic and absorbing, though a little lacking in characterisation for a first-person narrative.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Wonderful voice acting

Absolutely perfect voicing for Hollinghurst. Please do more! This book captures a beautiful part of the human condition flawlessly. I didn't want it to end.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful Smut

Gorgeous writing and important reading. Crucial for understanding the world of homosexuality in the early 20th century.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Exquisite

A perfect experience. Samuel West's narration is very Hollinghurstian. I love this intriguing, gripping, moving book and this brilliant performance. The sex bits are genius and so are all the little jokes.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Still superb after 20 years

A compelling and sexy novel which raises complex issues around clad, sexuality and race. Samuel West's narration is perfect and nothing short of stunning.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • MR
  • 14-09-12

Funny and Warming

Really enjoyed listening to this book. The characters are interesting and believable, especially Will who I think most people will be able to liken to a friend of their own. Think I have a good incite into what the gay scene was a few decades ago in middle class London. Felt a little cheated with a sudden ending, really wanted more. Other than that a really great 12 hours listening to this great story.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A consummate talent

Wonderful book, perfectly narrated. I was so grateful for it's length, not wanting to let go. Can't help but feel that AH's (stunningly written) graphic and lengthy descriptions of sexual encounters have to be self indulgence; if so, he richly deserves this pleasure. (I am a female heterosexual, just for the record) I only wish that Samuel West had narrated H's other novels - for me the two are forever joined.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Carefully crafted tale of a bygone era

Alan Hollinghurst used words like a craftsman: each is chosen for just the right purpose. I had to use my dictionary while listening several times! Although the story is quite spicy and racy (not for those easily shocked by graphic descriptions of gay sex) it is so well written that you are drawn along effortlessly, even when the scene being described is so brutal and devoid of human connection that it repels as much as it excites. Sam West narrates brilliantly: how he manages the different voices with such consistency is amazing and a testament to the skill of true actors. There are - perhaps - few characters with whom one totally sympathises or identifies (James, the doctor was the nearest I could manage). Nevertheless, there is a kind of appalling honesty about Hollinghurst's writing: he presents a version of gay/male sexuality in all it tawdry directness. Recommended.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting story, often tender, always funny.

Interesting story, well written, often tender, always funny. Probably not recommended for non-gay listeners (but give it a go if you're at all curious). Colourful descriptions of sexual activity, all done in the best possible taste, of course. If you listen to it in public, make sure the volume of your player is low enough (or you will get some funny looks). Excitable listeners may wish to place a briefcase or jacket on their lap if listening to it on public transport.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

fascinating book with many twists

This story is so important in gay history, having been born in 1949 I can testify to the behaviour of the police and politicians and of course the gay underworld. I wonder what life would still be like if it wasn't for the labour government passing the 1967 act that decriminalised gay sex. And of course the labour government of 2000 that repealed Magige Thatcher's 1989 clause 28 followed in 2004 by the lowering of age of consent for gay men to be the same as heterosexuals and later in 2005 giving us civil partnerships. I still hate the Tory bigots, never being able to forgive them.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Here-and-faraway
  • Here-and-faraway
  • 06-07-13

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 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for John
  • John
  • 04-08-12

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 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Peregrine
  • Peregrine
  • 15-05-11

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 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for AC
  • AC
  • 29-12-11

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 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for darbscott
  • darbscott
  • 23-10-18

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!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Eric
  • Eric
  • 21-05-18

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 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for J. A. Vendetti
  • J. A. Vendetti
  • 06-09-17

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 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for ChrisW
  • ChrisW
  • 23-01-16

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 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Lidiaburley
  • Lidiaburley
  • 10-09-19

great read!

I adore this book - multi-layered, full of allusions to set and literature, there's a lot of sex, and a lot of musing about sex, but I wouldn't call it a vulgar book by any means. like most Hollinghurst books the main character is a brilliant English gay man. in this one he's delightfully vain, superficial, yet has a poignsnt quality as well

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Jason
  • Jason
  • 21-04-18

Magnificent

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