- About the Author
- On Active Service
I always look forward to a William Boyd novel and have seldom been disappointed. This one starts in a similar way to “Waiting for Sunrise” with an introduction to our main protagonist as though we are seeing him for the first time in the street.
This is a many stranded novel, however, and in addition to our main protagonist, we hear many other voices, see into lots of different people’s minds. I even wondered at one stage if it’s two (or more?) stories cobbled together.
The book itself is a combination of industrial espionage, self-discovery and social document. Because there were so many characters I found I had to keep looking back to check who was who. Some people seemed very real, whilst others were just too weird. One in particular, with a predilection for not wearing underwear, reminded me of the main protagonist in William Boyd’s novel Armadillo. I did find it hard though to engage with any of the characters, with the exception maybe of the main protagonist, and some of their relationships, with their wives and children, were just too unlikely.
The complicated story and the multitude of characters certainly meant it’s a book to work at and one you can’t leave for too long or you forget what’s going on.
Typically “Boyd” is his idea that we become different people at different times of our life. He likes to study individual’s identity and how we connect and interact with other people throughout our lives. I particularly liked this:
“It just proved to him what he had always suspected: that the myriad connections between two discrete lives-close, distant, overlapping, tangential-lie there almost entirely unknown, unobserved, a great unseen network of the nearly, the almost, the might-have-been. From time to time, in everybody’s life, the network is glimpsed for a moment or two and the occasion acknowledged with a gasp of happy astonishment or a shiver of supernatural discomfort.”
The only thing about Boyd’s writing that does irritate me however is his predilection for using long words, as if to prove how clever he is.
This is a long book. The last few chapters seemed very drawn out, it took an inordinately long time to reach its conclusion and I’d worked out long before what was happening. It had a neat ending though, one which had the best of both worlds, happy yet with realism.
Bethany Askew is the author of seven novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days, Poppy’s Seed, Three Extraordinary Years and The Two Saras.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Two more women’s fiction books have been accepted for publication in 2020 and 2021 respectively and she is currently working on a new novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.