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Any Human Heart
A quotation from Henry James furnishes the title of William Boyd's new novel: "Never say you know the last word about any human heart. But, as becomes clear, both reality and art have a way of endlessly bifurcating the whole truth into many. I can see the frigorifico - a vast white factory with its stone jetty and towering chimneystack. I can hear the lowing of a thousand cattle waiting to be slaughtered, butchered, cleaned and frozen. Logan's life - either as diary entries, or redacted into small, third-person bridging passages - is similarly prepared for public consumption by Boyd. We see him at public school in England in the s with his friends Peter Scabius and Benjamin Leeping, and then at Oxford, where he falls in love with the mysterious Land Fothergill.
Look Inside Reading Guide. Reading Guide. Jan 06, ISBN Dec 18, ISBN Supremely entertaining.
It is written as a lifelong series of journals kept by the fictional character Mountstuart, a writer whose life — spanned the defining episodes of the 20th century, crossed several continents and included a convoluted sequence of relationships and literary endeavours. Boyd uses the diary form to explore how public events impinge on individual consciousness, so that Mountstuart's journal alludes almost casually to the war, the death of a prime minister or the abdication of the king. Boyd plays ironically on the theme of literary celebrity, introducing his protagonist to several real writers who are included as characters — a spat with Virginia Woolf in London , a possible sexual encounter with Evelyn Waugh at Oxford , a clumsy exchange with James Joyce in Paris , and a friendship with Ernest Hemingway that spans several years. Boyd spent 30 months writing the novel. The journal style, with its gaps, false starts and contradictions, reinforces the theme of the changing self in the novel. Many plot points simply fade away. The novel received mixed reviews from critics on publication, but has sold well.
Search this site. William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart is his disjointed autobiography, a massive tome chronicling "my personal rollercoaster"--or rather, "not so much a rollercoaster", but a yo-yo, "a jerking spinning toy in the hands of a maladroit child. Early and easy success is succeeded by a long half-century of mediocrity, disappointments and setbacks, both personal and professional, leading him to multiple failed marriages, internment, alcoholism and abject poverty. Mountstuart's sorry tale is also the story of a British way of life in inexorable decline, as his journey takes in the Bloomsbury set, the General Strike, the Spanish Civil War, s Americans in Paris, wartime espionage, New York avant garde art, even the Baader-Meinhof gang--all with a stellar supporting cast. The most sustained and best moment comes mid-book, as Mountstuart gets caught up in one of Britain's murkier wartime secrets, in the company of the here truly despicable Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Elsewhere author William Boyd occasionally misplaces his tongue too obviously in his cheek--the Wall Street Crash is trailed with truly crashing inelegance--but overall Any Human Heart is a witty, inventive and ultimately moving novel.