Any Human Heart, by William Boyd. Pub 2002
I picked this one based on the recommendation in The Diary of a Bookseller. It’s not something I would normally pick (author I’ve never heard of, middling reviews), but the recommendation from The Bookshop owner had me interested. I was pleased that I did. It was very well written and very engaging. The novel covers the entire life story of one Logan Mountstuart, an Englishman whose life runs almost the entirety of the 20th century. It takes the form of a journal, from about age 15 till his death at 85. The journal format enables such intimacy with him. He’s not always likeable, but you can see and understand his decisions, enjoy his fun, celebrate his victories, and mourn his many losses. These last include a most tragic story of lost love in WWII that had me weeping for and with him.
It is quite interesting to read such a thoroughly masculine novel, one that is honest and clear and brave. Logan is definitely a man of his time, but without the racism, sexism, other-isms. What he carries with him are many of the honourable things – chivalry, service, respect for others, loyalty. Many parts of his life are dissolute, but on balance I found him to be honourable and worthy.
He’s also a bit Forrest-Gump-like, in that he manages to meet many luminaries and figures throughout most of his life – Ian Fleming, Duke and Duchess Windsor, Earnest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Jackson Pollack, among others, all make cameos and not in flashy spotlighted ways (although the book is presented as an diary assembled by an anonymous editor, so footnotes appear to provide more verisimilitude). The faux-biography/journal seems to be a trope for this author, but one that he does very very well.
This one has been made into a film (miniseries, actually – with an impressive cast), so I might track that down. It is an epic and engaging story, so it might be quite good.
Fate: will hang on to this one for a bit, as I keep looking back at the more moving sections that stuck with me.
1 – a book with a body part in the title
8 – a book that is or has been made into a film
24 – a new author to me