The subject of “Time Revealing Truth” was a favorite one for Renaissance and Neoclassical artists; Tiepolo, Poussin, Bernini, and many others executed versions of the allegory. But Time, it must be admitted, doesn’t always reveal Truth. Memory is not only self-serving and selective; it is also appallingly unreliable. Someone who wishes to find the truth about the past, the real truth, confronts all but impenetrable barriers. Time may occasionally reveal truth, but it seems just as often to conceal it.

This subject is brilliantly explored by Allan Hollinghurst in his new novel, The Stranger’s Child, a rich and dense tale covering most of the twentieth century and beyond. Using the device of a literary biographer researching a half-forgotten poet, Hollinghurst communicates the sense of fascination we get from delving in to the past, even if the people whose pasts are being explored do not at first seem terribly...

 
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