Blair's Reviews > Any Human Heart

Any Human Heart by William  Boyd
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Aug 07, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: past-and-present, booker-prize, favourites, 2000-09-release
Read in March, 2011

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 Fingersmith, another one I thought dauntingly lengthy but raced through in a matter of days - I had completely underestimated how readable this book would be. It's a big, meaty tome, and certainly an intelligent read, but nevertheless it is an incredibly easy book to enjoy. This is partly down to the narrative format; it's written as a series of journals, charting the life of Logan Mountstuart - journalist, novelist, spy, prisoner, art dealer; lover, husband, father, divorcé, widower - from his schooldays to the weeks preceding his death. This journey takes the reader from the mid-1920s to the cusp of the 1990s, with so many different international settings I am struggling to remember all of them. There is also an incredible cast of characters, including the many famous names (writers, artists etc) and public figures (most notably the Duke and Duchess of Windsor) Logan encounters during his career(s).

As many others have observed, the narrative is incredibly convincing and authentic. It's only now I've finished the book that I can see how brilliantly Boyd has adapted Logan's voice throughout the different periods of his life. The character's writing constantly evolves, but the change is just that - evolution - absolutely recognisable as the same person, yet subtly developing and adjusting all the time. Reading this made me want to start keeping a paper journal (something I did obsessively in youth but very sporadically now) again. The relationships, too, are painfully realistic. I kept expecting Land to reappear in Logan's life, right up to the very end, but of course she didn't; if this had been a different (lesser?) book, they would have reunited and found their happy ending in old age, or something. Logan's loveless marriage to Lottie, his never-equalled love for Freya, his unfulfilling relationship with Allanah - all (well, most - I wasn't sure about the Monday episode, the only incident in the book that felt like a plot device to move the protagonist from one place to another) his interactions are wholly believable. Friends change beyond all recognition; people come in and out of Logan's life, some re-entering unexpectedly; little incidents happen that have nothing to do with anything else; there are surprises, some of them wonderful, some devastating - the stuff of life. It's simultaenously life-affirming, heartbreakingly sad, and funny (I couldn't stop laughing at the elderly Logan's assessment of his hospital ward-mate 'No-Fuss').

Do I give this four or five stars? I'm going to go with four, as on a personal level I don't think it will rank with my own absolute favourites, though it is technically 'better' than a number of them. But it's a qualified four, a 9 rather than an 8 out of 10. I don't think I will read the book again in its entirety, but I'm certain I will return to it, if only for the beautifully written, poignant, and inspiring diarised style. (NB: I haven't seen the recent TV adaptation; not sure I want to, as the book created such vivid images in my mind and I feel they are sufficient.)
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Reading Progress

03/28/2011 page 133
26.0% "I was going to save this for my holiday next month, but my Kindle has broken so here we go!"
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Katy LOVED. THIS. BOOK. i watched the tv adap afterwards (was really excited about it) and wanted to cry; do not recommend. switched off half way through the first ep and never went back to it. the women are offensively recreated (land is AWFUL) and logan is a snivelling brat. so disappointing :(


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