“Its pleasures are endless. . . . Supremely entertaining.” –The Washington Post Book World
"Boyd has an exceptional ability to tell a really compelling story, in dense imaginative detail, about characters with complex, and convincing, emotional lives. . . . I've already read this book twice and probably shall again. Of how many novels can that be said?"Peter Green, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“The sort of rare novel that redeems the essential purpose of prose fiction. . . . A high celebration of the plain fun of a life lived with relentless appetite and reasonable grace.”—The Baltimore Sun
“Entertaining and moving. . . . Can be read with sheer pleasure not only for the delicacy of its emotions but for the truth of its perceptions. Like saying goodbye to a good friend, it’s hard to see this brilliant novel come to an end.” —The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A wonderful character—and a wonderful book. . . . Boyd persuades you that you’ve read the confidences of a real, flawed, marginal character battered by every malice and caprice of 20th-century history. ” —The Seattle Times
“A pleasure front to back, and a fond tip of the bowler hat to the upper-class fiction spawned by a long-gone world.”— Newsweek
“One of the most skillful and appealing writers at work today.”—The Atlantic Monthly
“A novel of deep humanity and insight.”—Newsday
Intimate with ambitions and infidelities, it's very funny, monstrously sad, and amazingly vivid. Any Human Heart, for all its titular generality, is that rare thing: a book so good that one foolishly hopes -- as one does with life -- it will never end.
Boyd takes tremendous risks in making this not over-talented, ambitious sensualist draw so full and unflattering a portrait of himself. That he succeeds so triumphantly is chiefly a tribute to the never-failing realism of his historical ghost-raising, the rich and loving detail with which he invests each fresh scene and character, the pitch-perfect ear with which he catches the musings, not only of Logan himself but also of his friends and relatives, at each successive stage of their lives. — Peter Green
Couched as the diary of one Logan Mountstuart -- writer, seducer, spy, and all-around charlatan - Boyd's novel attempts a panorama of twentieth-century history with its hero constantly at the edge of the frame. Mountstuart dines with Bloomsburyites, meets Joyce in Paris, spends the Spanish Civil War hobnobbing with Hemingway and the Second World War trailing the Duke of Windsor for British Intelligence. Later, he runs an art gallery in New York, and gets mixed up in the Nigerian civil war and with the Baader-Meinhof gang. Such an antic plot should not succeed, and yet disbelief remains suspended, thanks to Boyd's skill in producing a novel that successfully mimics a diary in all its human pettiness. He allows Mountstuart's voice to age like port: the precocious schoolboy blithely speculates that the "announcement of a future fact has a tenuous hold on the present moment," while the adult reflects, "It's always hard trying to imagine the loss of something you never had."
A madcap wonder of a tale, this novel offers the journals of adventurer and spy Logan Mountstuart. Boyd's protagonist is a Zelig figure who lives the life of the century—starting out in Latin America in 1906, he whirlwinds through Oxford, then joins Pablo Picasso in Paris in the '20s. Next, he's a war correspondent in the Spanish civil war. In World War II, he becomes a naval intelligence operative, hot on the trail of an elaborate murder mystery (the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are involved. In dizzying succession, he then plunges into the world of abstract expressionist painting in New York, trailblazes Africa and tangles with German terrorists in London. Boyd's previous fiction—especially his Hollywood novels (The New Confessions, The Blue Afternoon—has been brilliantly inventive. This may be his most cunning yet.
Surely one of the most beguiling books of this season, this rich, sophisticated, often hilarious and disarming novel is the autobiography of a typical Englishman as told through his lifelong journal. Born to British parents in Uruguay in 1906, Logan Mountstuart attends an English prep school where he makes two friends who will be his touchstones for the next eight decades. The early entries in his journal, which record his sexual explorations and his budding ambitions, provide a clear picture of the snobbery and genteel brutality of the British social system. Logan is a decent chap, filled with a moral idealism that he will never lose, although his burning sense of justice will prove inconvenient in later years. He goes down from Oxford with a shameful Third, finds early success as a novelist, marries a rich woman he doesn't love, escapes to Spain to fight in the civil war and is about to embark on a happy existence with his second wife when WWII disrupts his and his generation's equilibrium. He's sent on a na ve spying mission by British Naval Intelligence and imprisoned for two years. On his release, he finds that tragedy has struck his family. Logan's creativity is stunted, and he slides into alcoholism, chronic infidelity and loneliness. "I believe my generation was cursed by the war," Logan says, and this becomes the burden of the narrative. He resorts to journalism to earn a living, specializing in pieces about the emerging stars of the art world, whom he encounters-somewhat like Zelig-in social situations. Logan's picaresque journey through the 20th century never seems forced, however. His meetings with Picasso, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Hemingway and Ian Fleming are adroitly and credibly interposed into the junctures of his life. This flawed yet immensely appealing protagonist is one of Boyd's most distinctive creations, and his voice-articulate, introspective, urbane, stoically philosophical in the face of countless disappointments-engages the reader's empathy. Logan is a man who sees his bright future dissipate and his great love destroyed, and yet can look back with "a strange sense of pride" that he's "managed to live in every decade of this long benighted century." His unfulfilled life, with his valiant efforts to be morally responsible, to create and, finally, just to get by, is a universal story, told by a master of narrative. Boyd, back in top form, has crafted a novel at least as beautifully nuanced as A Good Man in Africa and Brazzaville Beach. Logan's journal entries are so candid and immediate it's difficult to believe he isn't real. And after 496 pages, it's hard to say good-bye. (Feb. 10) Forecast: With its bird's-eye view of English history in the 20th century, it's no wonder that this novel is a bestseller there. Scenes set in Spain, New York, Bermuda, West Africa and France, which allow Boyd to draw on his international experiences, should enhance its appeal for readers in this country. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Told entirely in the form of journal entries, this lavishly imagined novel seeks to explore the complexity of an individual human life responding to history and change. The journal's author is a cultured, intelligent man named Logan Mountstuart. Beginning in 1923 with his schoolboy days in England, Mountstuart takes us through college, experiences in 1930s Paris, adventures as a spy for England during World War II, and, finally, his golden years and eventual death. This is a masterfully drawn historical novel, utterly convincing in its depiction of events, but Boyd (Armadillo) also explores the nuances of Mountstuart's complex interior life: his youthful ambitions, his yearning for love, and the challenges posed by loss and disappointment. The result is brimming with vitality, pathos, and psychological intimacy. Enthusiastically recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/02.]-Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The up-and-down life and times of a globetrotting author-adventurer, chronicled with exuberant wit and romantic gusto.
Like Boyd's The New Confessions (1988), Any Human Heart is a panoramic picaresque. It details in nine chronologically arranged (and footnoted) journals their eponymous author's experiences in South America (where he's born, to a British meat-packing executive and his Uruguayan secretary), at an English public school, and later in Oxford, and thereafter on several continents, often in the company of the great and near-great. After showing early promise as a writer, Logan (1906-91) becomes a correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War. In Paris, Hemingway and Fitzgerald accept him as a peer (as will such eminences as Anthony Powell and Evelyn Waugh-though Virginia Woolf isn't much impressed). Picasso sketches him; and Logan's quick study of Europe's art milieu gains him possession of valuable paintings that will enrich and complicate his later years. But in the meantime he works for British Naval Intelligence under Ian Fleming, goes to the Bahamas to observe suspicious behavior by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, spends time in a Swiss POW camp, lives down and out in London, becomes involved with the murderous German Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang in the early 1970s, and rebounds as a successful Manhattan art dealer (in a sequence that recalls Boyd's hoax "biography" of a nonexistent artist: Nat Tate), before eventually retiring to the French countryside. The tale is lively and likable, if awfully anecdotal, and perversely given to serial name-dropping. The titled journals are furthermore of very uneven quality-though those dealing with "The Second World War" and"The Post-War" contain some of Boyd's best writing. And Logan is really less a fully realized character than a recording device. But what a device.
A rich, unruly work, intermittently skimpy and chaotic. And, in its best pages (of which there are a fortunate many), a nearly irresistible entertainment.