The Line of Beauty , the fourth novel by Alan Hollinghurst, is favourite to win this year's Booker Prize and is expected to make the shortlist next Tuesday. The story is set in the 1980s and the protagonist, Nick Guest, who is taking a doctorate on Henry James at University College London, becomes perhaps the only academic ever to dance with Margaret Thatcher. Yet this is not the only high privilege accorded to Mr Guest. The young scholar is reading a study of John Berryman's poetry. "It was sent on to me this morning," he says while on holiday in France. "I'm reviewing it for The THES ."