Any Human Heart: William Boyd

boyd

Hello my dear readers, today comes a very special review. A friend who is an avid reader gave me this book and it didn’t disappoint. This was a birthday present and I have finally got round to reading it, and I will definitely be reading more of Boyd’s work in the future. It’s something that was a little different and although I am not used to the ‘biography’ style genre, I really enjoyed it. I hope you also enjoy the review!

Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary, but Logan Mountstuart’s – lived from the beginning to the end of the twentieth century – contains more than its fair share of both. As a writer who finds inspiration with Hemingway in Paris and Virginia Woolf in London, as a spy recruited by Ian Fleming and betrayed in the war and as an art-dealer in ’60s New York, Logan mixes with the movers and shakers of his times. But as a son, friend, lover and husband, he makes the same mistakes we all do in our search for happiness. Here, then, is the story of a life lived to the full – and a journey deep into a very human heart.

Logan’s life, told in a series of diary entries and small third person passages follows the life of a very interesting character. Starting off in public school in England in the 1920’s with his friends Scabius and Leeping we follow Logan on his exciting life written in beautifully fluid and intimate prose. During this time in his life, the rather romantic Logan falls in love with the intellectually challenging Land Fothergill. Logan is a rather embarrassed and naïve character throughout that really made me empathise and connect with him as the main character. Wherever Logan looks he sees beauty and interest. We see Logan grow during this time and finds himself in a number of romantic relationship and he marries and has a son named Lionel. However Logan becomes tired and wanders before falling in love with another. After a rather embarrassing finding out of the affair, Logan marries again and they also have a small child. Logan however finds he has to travel to the Bahamas after being posted during the war working in naval intelligence. Logan is posted there to keep a watchful eye on the Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson. However, after an incredibly suspicious murder Logan decides to investigate however he ends up getting himself in a bit of a pickle. Recalled to London he is instead trained to parachute and drop into Switzerland as a part of a mission. Posing as a Uruguayan shipbroker he is immediately picked up by Swiss intelligence and spends the rest of the war in Prison. Here we see a very pensive and emotional Logan. However, there is very different side to him due to a terrible turn of events when he returns.

Moving between different locations Logan seems to lose sight of himself and after a rather aggressive encounter with the famous Virginia Woolf and being introduced to the rather interesting Pablo Picasso and brilliant Hemming way, Logan ends up in the possession of a number of Miro canvasses. After a number of years the paintings are sold by Logan’s old friend Leeping (from public school) who eventually gives him a job as his New York representative at the gallery. However although he is seen as an established author penning a Shelley monograph and a best-selling novel as a contrast we see Logan has a wild sex drive, and after a number of failed marriages he turns to alcohol, adultery and he stops writing. The rest of the novel follows Logan’s life as his friends around him rise and fall as he continues to try and find himself in an uncompromising world.

What I loved about this novel is that Logan has all the characteristics that lead to a well balanced but incredibly interesting character; smart, selfish, generous, naïve and intriguing. He inhabits so many character traits that it allows for lots of different events to transpire. He comes across as incredibly real and that makes the book so much deeper and special. Additonally the supporting characters are incredibly different which leads to an interesting plot line. The ups and downs in his life are realistically written and are believable because of the strong character build up. The book although written in diary form is incredibly powerful and at times I felt very emotional. The book speaks a special type of truth and is well written and realistic. I also loved the way in which ageing was approached, Logan doesn’t change and instead his spirit stays the same throughout; it was a very beautiful way of discussing this. At times the book is a little tragic and I found myself feeling incredibly sorry and incredibly jealous of Logan and his freedom.

Overall this is a very special book with a lot to offer; it is well written, emotional and thought provoking. Logan is a brilliant character and it has inspired me to read more of Boyd’s work in the future.

4 Comments

  1. August 29, 2014 / 6:00 am

    Hi Lizzy, I feel a strong sense of affinity with you and had to comment on your post – because I am just coming to the end of Any Human Heart. I’ve been reading and enjoying William Boyd’s writing for years. This book of his has been waiting for me ever since my son recommended it to me several years ago. Now that I’ve finally got round to it I am completely immersed in the story, and can’t bear the thought of coming to the end and having to say goodbye to Logan Mountstuart. So it’s great to find a fellow fan. I am really jealous of you having many more wonderful books by William Boyd yet to read. Best wishes, Jane

    • December 30, 2014 / 3:21 pm

      Not sure how I missed this comment thank you for writing to me! I loved this book cannot wait to read it again. I was exactly the same at the end I just thought god no don’t make it stop! One of those moments you really don’t want a book to end! 🙂 Best wishes Lizzy x

  2. Terry Tyler
    August 31, 2015 / 8:59 am

    Adored this book so much!!!! Lovely review of it – I’ve read a few William Boyd.

    • September 1, 2015 / 2:12 pm

      thank you! Need to read some more William Boyd :3

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