Tripp's Reviews > Stars and Bars

Stars and Bars by William  Boyd
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Jun 01, 2009

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Read in June, 2009

I love the books of William Boyd. His Any Human Heart is one of my top favorite novels, up there with Kavalier and Clay, Atonement and Cloud Atlas. His Ice Cream War, set in the little known African theater of World War One, is among the finest of the war/imperial novels, right up there with anything by JG Farrell. A Good Man in Africa is right up there with Graham Greene's great ones. Armadillo is a well constructed examination of identity and the idea of Englishness.

Stars and Bars, which I just read, is not as good as those books. It has Boyd's trademark wit, but it lacks the deeper understanding of people that enrich his other books. The book is the closest thing to pure slapstick that I have yet encountered among his works. Henderson Dores is an Englishmen who longs to be American. The novel opens with him at work at an art house in NYC. He is sent into wildest Georgia to evaluate the collection of an elderly man.

Upon his arrival, he finds that most of the family is none too happy to see him. One son threatens to beat his ass with his head and one daughter is given to candid Anglophobia. He makes matters worse by trying to juggle two women, one of whose daughters travels with him to Georgia.

There are many funny moments, but the book just feels insubtantial when compared to the others. If this were one of his others, he might try to explore more of how Americans and the English interact. Here, it is mostly, if not entirely played for laughs. It isn't a bad book by any means, but don't expect something like his others.
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