Beth Bonini's Reviews > Any Human Heart

Any Human Heart by William  Boyd
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's review
Jan 08, 2011

really liked it
Read in January, 2011

My husband and I have been watching the recently filmed production of this, and even though it is enjoyable -- and very well-done -- it is definitely one of those cases where the film cannot begin to compare to the novel! As the novel is attempting to take on the scope of a man's entire life, that is just way too much materical to be satisfyingly "shrunk" into four episodes.

One of the aspects the film emphasizes, though, is protagonist Logan Mountstuart's belief that life is nothing but a series of good luck and bad luck -- and that most of life is accidental and out of our control. I do believe this; at least in the sense that he means it. It's not that we don't influence things, or that our behavior and attitudes don't matter, but so, so many of the big things are out of our control. The family one is born into, for instance. Or the country; or the time period. Whether or not one gets cancer. A car wreck. And so on.

This was a very engrossing novel; in fact, I couldn't put it down. I don't often read books with male narrators, and I liked that aspect of it. It spans the 20th century, and the main character is Zelig-like in that he meets Virgina Woolf in Oxford, Hemingway in Paris, Jackson Pollack in New York City and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the Bahamas (just to give a few, very few, examples). The writer, William Boyd, obviously did loads of research for the book . . . but it is "worn" lightly. There is a satisfying amount of detail, but it never detracts from (or slows down) the plot. The novel is "told" from a series of journal entries, and they felt very authentic to me. There is the usual noting of weather and food, as is typical in a journal, but also the occasional burst of emotional unburdening or general philosophizing. Boyd works very cleverly with the limited point-of-view, and as a reader you always feel that you have learned more than you have been "told."

I haven't read much of Boyd's work -- only Restless, which was excellent -- but after reading this novel, I want to remedy that.
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12/16/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6)

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message 6: by Relyn (new)

Relyn Now I've got to read this. I think... I don't usually like sagas. I think I must try it though.

Beth Bonini It is a thoughtful, but immensely entertaining novel.
I wouldn't describe it as a "saga," really.
I've read some of other reviews that didn't like the main character, Logan Mountstuart, but I did.
Yes, he had foibles -- drank too much; slept around too much -- but I found him very sympathetic.
I think that any Anglophile would enjoy this book.

message 4: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Enjoyed your experience with this one, Beth. It has certainly caught my attention all of a sudden.

Beth Bonini Mike, this is one of the few novels that my husband and I both love.

message 2: by Liina (new)

Liina Bachmann I have noticed that but have been hesitant... Your review was helpful to make a decision, to read it this year , thanks!

Beth Bonini I think this is a great book, Liina.

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