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Any Human Heart

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  5,919 ratings  ·  669 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published October 26th 2009 by Penguin Canada (first published 2002)
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I have liked this book a great deal more than I wanted to admit. It flows easily, and the diary format, with short entries and some gossipy ingredients, makes it hard to break away. This was addictive reading.

Several readers in GR have criticized that they do not like the main character. To me he comes across as an ordinary man, with weaknesses (alcohol and women), some cowardly reactions, but showing also bouts of integrity and a fair amount of self-honesty (to what extent does diary-writing in...more
I enjoyed this tremendously, even though I watched the TV adaptation a few weeks earlier, so I already knew the characters and plot (though there are some differences).


This is presented as a compilation of journals kept by Logan Mountstuart from shortly before he left school in the 1920s until just before his death aged 85. Consequently, they describe things as they were at the time, with candour and an absence of hindsight. It also means there are gaps and changes of style....more
Huw Rhys
If you can imagine Johnny English meeting Rolf Harris meeting Forrest Gump meeting Grahame Greene meeting Adrian Mole (just after Sue Townshend lost interest in him), then you're not a million miles away from how the plot in this novel is set up.

And although it does contain a lot of banality along with quite a few other weaknesses, this doesn't spoil too much what is a very, very special novel.

When I read something that moves me, or resonates very strongly with me, I turn over the bottom of the...more
When you start out, you'll think you might not like this book. The main character is arrogant and, well, young. Brash. But keep going through this fictionalized journal that keeps track of seventy years of a man's life, including his heartbreaks and strongest loves. Other reviewers bash it for its "Forest Gumpness," yet to me it's not all that unbelievable that an upperclass intelligence officer might have contact with influential persons during one of the world's most tempestuous and active per...more
Tea Jovanović
Britanci su snimili sjajan film snimljen po ovoj knjizi... Kako to samo oni umeju da urade... :) A na ovog autora obratite paznju, odlican je...
I don't think I've ever mourned the end of a character in quite the way I mourned Logan Mountstuart, tears winding down my temples as I peeled through the last pages in bed last night. I don't tend to get all that emotionally invested in the things I read (sentimental sure, but I typically retain that sense of fictionality ("yes, it was very sad when the man stopped drawing the deer")) but the way the main body of Any Human Heart is presented as a salvaged journal scaffolded by biographical anno...more
That was a good life. A good, male life, lived through almost the entirety of the twentieth century. Or at least, it made for good reading material, but I'd like to think that in the end, Logan was happy in the least regretful sense that an old man can be.
I have to say, becoming a writer was probably the best thing he could have done in this time period. He met so many renowned folks, and took part in so many historical events as he traveled the world over. That may be my bias towards writ...more
I’ve never kept a diary myself, but do have admiration for those who do. It seems to me to require a level of dedication that even a humble scribbler of fiction like myself would find hard to maintain. I don’t write every single day, let alone every single evening, and besides I like to make stuff up. The fictional diary then perhaps offers the ideal halfway house for a novelist, allowing the form but without the chore of writing about every single day, no matter how little has actually happened...more

This is not my favorite book, this is not the most lofty book I've ever read, its not going to break into the top ten list (although I think it has become cemented into the top 20) However, It was a total page turner that kept me up late and wishing my subway rides would last longer but some how managed to feel important and slightly intellectual at the same time. It was amazing and I'm afraid to even recommend it because if you don't love it as much as I did it will break my heart.

There are man...more
Nov 30, 2011 Stela rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Stela by: Carmen, a friend
Every time I close a book I like to question myself about the most powerful images in it. In this one there were at least three: the announcement of Logan's father death, made by an insensitive principal (the Lizard) who explains that this is the only motive for not expelling the narrator and who hits him hard, on the same occasion, for breaking some school rules; the way the hero dresses up for a meeting with a friend in order not to be suspected that he is so poor that he eats dog-food; and th...more
Karen Pine

One sign of a good book is the sense of emptiness that lingers once the last page has been reluctantly turned. So it was with Any Human Heart, which completely and utterly spoiled me for whatever came next*. On finishing the book I found I missed the central character, Logan Mountstuart enormously, as if his death had been the death of someone I knew and loved. Logan, with all his failings, manages to charm and beguile the reader in the way he charmed many who crossed his path. I loved his wit,...more
I'll write a proper review later maybe, but my initial thoughts -

* This book started out as 'just okay' for me - hovering between three stars and four stars, then became a hazy four stars but very near the end marched up to five stars.

* I loved Logan. I came to know him and see him subtly change as the years took him from adolescence to an old man. Always full of sprite and character. I laughed with him and I cried with him.

* Because of this I now feel a great sense of loss - I'm going to mi...more
I'd been putting this off - or saving it. Either way I had intended to read it on holiday at the end of April, the reason being that I thought it would be a tough book to tackle; not difficult or unenjoyable, but the sort of thing I would need lots of time and proper concentration to really appreciate. However, a few days ago my Kindle broke and, with nothing else available while I wait for it to be replaced, I decided to get stuck in to Any Human Heart.

I soon realised that - as with Fingersmit...more
Ginni Dickinson
It was with great sadness that I finished "Any Human Heart" last night. I feel like I have lost a dear friend in LMS (Logan Mounstuart.) LMS is one of the most human and sympathetic characters I have enjoyed getting to know. I think most who have read of him would agree he could be a real ass. But somehow I can overlook this because of his great capacity to love and to reflect so honestly on his life. From LMS I have learned that life can be a series of good and bad luck events. It is up to me t...more
Didn't really like it. It's written as a diary, and covers a good chunk of the 20th century. Logan, the diarist, didn't compel me in the slightest, he was flat. Although he experienced some exciting things in his life, from meeting Hemingway and Picasso, to being imprisoned as a spy, I found him boring. I did read it through, which is something.... I kept hoping to start caring about him. But I never did. Perhaps it's the diary form that disagreed with me--I think it may be the first of that sty...more
This book, although well-written, was about the life of a man I didn't really like, until he became much older. For about the last 100 pages, I really really enjoyed it.
The language isn't difficult, but this is one of those books that needs 100 pages of your patience, because it takes that long for the small devices of the voice to take effect. Once they do, the last 400 pages zip along.

It's presented as though it were a posthumously published series of diary entries--NOT a memoir. This matters because the central appeal is the voice of a writer (Logan Mountstuart) talking candidly to himself, rather than positioning his experiences for public view. The attract...more
I guess this book was written for the older generation. In my 30s or even 40s I would probably have dismissed it for its ramblings, its excessive length and its protagonist's arrogance and name-dropping. For some it would appear to be a sort of British equivalent of Forest Gump as its hero lives through almost the entire twentieth century meeting many of its great characters and being involved in many of its central events.

However, for us "wrinklies" I suspect, there is a great deal of fascinat...more
I know a number of people who consider this book a favourite so I was expecting a lot. Sadly I was disappointed.

As the story of a man living through the major(ish) events of the 20th century, not as a main player or hero, but a fairly ordinary (if a little priviliged) man it was a neat premise. My problem with it I think can be best summed up by describing a key scene. During WW2 as an intelligence officer his family backgorund on his mother's side makes him the ideal candidate as a spy in Switz...more
Mark Speed
One of my all-time favourite books. Don't be put off by the first page, which - in my view - is a little difficult to read.

The novel is presented as extracts from the diary of a writer. We follow him from school days, sexual awakening, through WWII, love, marriage, the tragic deaths of friends, encounters with famous and historic figures, and his so-near-yet-so-far success as a writer. It's this latter writer's journey that hooked me. It's as if Boyd is giving writers a life-coaching talk about...more
This book was like meeting a friend - a friend that as soon as you meet them it feels like you were already friends forever and how is it possible you hadn't really met before? Any Human Heart is the story of Logan Gonzago Mountstuart told through his journals spanning from his public school days in England through his eighties in France. His life is full of everything from the tedious days of his first marriage to his exciting days as a spy during the war, full of famous acquaintances (Hemingwa...more
What a fabulous book.

I discovered this purely by chance. A friend told me to catch a television serial and, soon afterwards, the novel popped up on another friend’s Goodreads with a five star rating. Until then, I had no idea that the serial was, in fact, a serialisation of William Boyd’s book. I must confess I was surprised. I thought the television adaptation was brilliant; but I had been underwhelmed by the only other book I had read of Boyd’s: Restless.

And this book by Boyd? Well, my first...more
Nick Brett
Although I have read a previous William Boyd, this is not the sort of book I would normally pick up. Luckily a friend insisted I give it a try.

And such a hard book to describe, at a superficial level it is a fictional autobiography (in the form of a life-long journal) that takes us through much of the 20th century. Through the journal we meet many important people from the Duke of Windsor and Ian Fleming through to various artists and writers. But it is at the deeper level where the book hooks y...more
Ian Mapp
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laurie Saunders
This is one of the books I had as part of my literary spa treatment my hubbie organised secretly because my bridesmaid was that good. The main reason that I picked this book was because the narrator is a writer. What's more, the blurb at the back presented him as a flawed, failing writer and rather mediocre family man. I felt some kinship there, indeed. I started reading this book when I was pregnant but gave up about a third in as it had become too depressing for me to carry on. A lot of that h...more
Sara floerke
Just folded this one up and I can't describe exactly why I enjoyed it so much.

I picked it up because Masterpiece Theatre this month is playing the screen version. We really didn't enjoy it much. I didn't think much of the character and found him arrogant and immature. I was slowly slogging along with the book version when I found that I was thinking about the book when I wasn't reading it. What intrigues me is that this book is one long journal, but it is fiction. However, it reads so realistica...more
Rachel Stevenson
I watched the Channel 4 adaptation of this novel and thought it was about the lives of some silly public school boys living irritating lives with meetings with famous figures shoe-horned in – in the first 150 pages, the protagonist, Logan, bumps into Waugh, Woolf, Picasso, Edward and Mrs Simpson, Anthony Powell, Ian Fleming as well as some Oxford Dons and minor figures from the pre-war art and literary world that I'd not heard of. However, I've enjoyed some non-fiction by Boyd, so I gave the boo...more
David Manns
What a wonderful book. The intimate journals of one Loagan Gonzago Mountstuart, this book follows one man's life across the 20th Century. Presented as edited entries from his personal journals, Boyd follows his protagonist from University, through his early career as a writer, the war, running an art gallery in New York to a final, quite moving old age in Britain and France.

Along the way Logan manages to rub shoulders with the great and the good (Hemingway, The Duke and Duchess of York, Picasso...more
Mark Fox
Logan Mountstuart is Boyd's central character. A young, rather pompous man of affluent Uruguayan origin, he dreams of being an author. Only he cannot overcome the stasis that follows his first, highly-acclaimed novel. This is his central weakness: laziness, an upper-middle class languidness perhaps.

As was his superlative work The New Confessions, Any Human Heart is a story of one man's life. We follow Logan from his early days at Oxford to the end that, inevitably, claims us all. You get the fe...more
Written in diary style, this novel tells of one man’s life lived through the twentieth century and it’s tricky to write what it’s actually about since the story covers such a long period of time. It contains lots of name-dropping (Edward and Mrs Simpson, Ian Fleming, Ernest Hemingway, to name but a few…) which helps to add to the biographical feel of it.

The protagonist, Logan, is not really a very likeable person. He has few redeeming features, yet despite this I still found his story compelling...more
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When you did realize the truth of the memoir 1 67 Feb 09, 2009 08:33PM  
  • I'll Go to Bed at Noon
  • Spies
  • The Impressionist
  • Sour Sweet
  • The Fellowship: The Untold Story of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship
  • Angel
  • English Passengers
  • The Bee-Loud Glade
  • Consolation
  • A Legacy
  • Stone Virgin
  • Waterland
  • The Millstone
  • Darkmans (Thames Gateway, #3)
  • Master Georgie
  • That They May Face The Rising Sun
  • The Rector's Daughter
  • Restoration
Of Scottish descent, Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana on 7th March, 1952 and spent much of his early life there and in Nigeria where his mother was a teacher and his father, a doctor. Boyd was in Nigeria during the Biafran War, the brutal secessionist conflict which ran from 1967 to 1970 and it had a profound effect on him.

At the age of nine years he attended Gordonstoun school, in Moray, Scotland an...more
More about William Boyd...
Restless Waiting for Sunrise Ordinary Thunderstorms Brazzaville Beach A Good Man in Africa

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“It's true: lives do drift apart for no obvious reason. We're all busy people,we can't spend our time simply trying to stay in touch. The test of a friendship is if it can weather these inevitable gaps.” 73 likes
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