Any Human Heart- and some of Boyd’s other books

In that gap between Christmas and New Year when I often feel that I should be doing something but am not sure what, I thought that I would pop in a post that is a bit overdue, even with the joys of watching tv on the internet. So, Happy New Year and all that.

Todays’ book is Any Human Heart by William Boyd.

This is the Boyd novel recently dramatised on Channel Four. I really enjoyed the Matthew Macfaden sections, but found the old man sections which the tv version kept cutting to rather distracting. The novel is in the form of several journals kept by the fictional Logan Mountstuart, though throughout his long life he encounters many real characters.  This format means that the narrative does not really flow as well as it could. It is also quite a narrow perspective on the events of his life and the people he meets, but an intensely  personal record of his rather robust attitudes and outlook on life. The gaps ‘between’ his journals mean that only the major historical or personal events are covered, and many of these are tragic.

I read the book while the series was running. This did mean that I did have the picture of each character dominated by the tv versions, but I could also complare the way that the story was presented. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were particularly memorable, and  the tragedy of Logan’s family in the war was more direct, more understandable. I think that the tv version did simplify the novel sympathetically and worked well, apart from the continuous references to the final section of Logan’s life. The book works because the reader is alongside Logan in discovering what is going on around him, rather than musing on what has been, which seems to be the emphasis of the tv version. The book kept me reading, even if I knew what was about to happen, and despite the fact that I did not always sympathize with the characters. Boyd keeps the tension going well, and says a lot about obsessions and fixations. The book is more complex than the series in many ways, and in a way is more interesting. I would compare it with Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time which deals with much the same historical experience, but at twelve volumes is a much longer read ( been there, done that). Boyd is a later writer compiling an historical fiction compared with Powell as a contemporary to many of the events he depicts in his novel. Both books/sets of books are work as narrative rather than climatic novels, but both carry the reader through a male dominated story. For a more female based, action novel, I remember reading Boyd’s Restless


which is a thriller of wartime espionage written from a woman’s point of view. I really enjoyed this book, and it proves that Boyd can write in a far more taut, exciting way. I have started his latest Ordinary Thunderstorms, but cannot seem to progress with it. Maybe I’ll try again in the new year…



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