Tony's Reviews > Waiting for Sunrise

Waiting for Sunrise by William  Boyd
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's review
May 13, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in May, 2012

WAITING FOR SUNRISE. (2012). William Boyd. *****.
Mr. Boyd is a consistently excellent storyteller and writer. This, his latest, is a mystery novel, an espionage novel, a romance (several) novel, and a historical novel. The protagonist, Lysander Rief, is a young man from London who has travelled to Vienna to seek treatment from a psychiatrist there for a very personal problem – one that was sexual in nature. Using techniques derived from the teachings of Dr. Freud – although Freud later disparaged the techniques as unproven therapies – Lysander is cured. But maybe the cure wasn’t all caused by his doctor. He met a strange woman, Hettie Bull, who was able to free him from his sex problem independently of his doctor. He fell madly in love with Hettie, but cannot really understand her. She circulated in the art world of Vienna, and was the model for the cover for the libretto of a new opera and was an accomplished sculptor in her own right. After a period of several months of intense sexual relations with Hettie, the police appear at the door of his lodging house and place him under arrest. When asked what the charge was, they told him that he had been accused of rape by a Miss Bull. After being placed in jail, he learns that Hettie came up with the rape charge because she learned that she was pregnant with his charge. The use of ‘rape’ was a way out for her to avoid a terrible retribution from her current husband. Learning this, Lysander decides that the only way to solve the problem without exposing Hettie as a liar – thus avoiding a long prison term himself, but exposing her real situation to her husband – was to escape. He is aided in this by members of the British Embassy, who offer to pay his bond with the stipulation that he be held under house arrest at the embassy. Again with their surreptitios help, he manages to escape and ultimately makes his way back to London. Later, the next year, 1914, war breaks out and he enlists. It is then that he is approached by the embassy members that he met earlier in Vienna and offered a special assignment. The assignment is to find out where the leak is in their War Office that is providing information to the enemy. Now we get to his job as a counter-espionage agent. The bare bones of the plot are masterfully embellished by Boyd’s skill in describing both people and places, such that we ultimately feel that we know his characters very well and the places they are working in as well. This is one of those one-nighters where you stay up well past your normal bedtime to race to the end. There aren’t many books like this out there anymore. This is one of them. Highly recommended.
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