Any Human Heart, William Boyd

What a Find!

I picked this up at the informal lending-library outside a local liquor store, just on the strength of the back-cover blurb, and it turns out to be one of my most satisfying reads in years. A sort of super-literate anglophile Forrest Gump, this is neither more nor less than the story of one life, well-lived and equally well-told.

While the central conceit – a bundling up of episodes & intermittent journals – at first sounds limiting, it actually frees the author to tell only the parts of Logan Mountstuart’s life he chooses, and to insert ‘editorial’ exposition where needed to bridge the gaps of time or detail. At the same time, the first person voice of a protagonist who is credibly both educated and introspective gives access to thoughts and emotions without seeming fake or forced. The upshot is that this reader experienced Logan’s ups and downs quite personally, especially the decades-later mourning of his second wife and daughter, random victims of the London Blitz.

In my book, Boyd is a writer to seek out, up there with Ann Patchett and Michael Cunningham – smart, generous, entertaining and meaningful.

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