Hollinghurst had a big task to equal The Line of Beauty. This Affair doesn't. Shallow louche academic and artistic characters with few endearing qualities are haunted by family events that were scandalous for the times. Why Hollinghurst thinks future generations should or would continue to carry the 'cross' to the detriment of their own professional success, private lives and relationships is an implausible and unanswered question. However, it is the unconvincing theme of the novel.