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Sweet Caress

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  7,760 ratings  ·  790 reviews
When Amory Clay was born, in the decade before the Great War, her disappointed father gave her an androgynous name and announced the birth of a son. But this daughter was not one to let others define her; Amory became a woman who accepted no limits to what that could mean, and, from the time she picked up her first camera, one who would record her own version of events.

Hardcover, 464 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA (first published August 27th 2015)
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Popular Answered Questions
Laura The photos in the book are found photos that the author collected at estate sales and antique shops. They were partially the inspiration for Amory.
The photos in the book are found photos that the author collected at estate sales and antique shops. They were partially the inspiration for Amory.
He talks about it in this interview:
Kirsten Bett No, but the events are real and some of the other people described are real.

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Andrew Smith
Sep 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
He’s written a few of these, has Boyd. That’s to say fictional biographies of people who have lived through the great events of the 20th century. The other’s I’ve read, The New Confessions and Any Human Heart covered the lives of men. Both were highly entertaining and, in the end, sucked me into the mindset that was I reading of the life of a real person. This time around, the book documents the life of a woman, Amory Clay, who was to become a photographer and photojournalist. Her story flows ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-lit-uk
In ‘Sweet Caress: The Many Lives Of Amory Clay’ William Boyd imagines himself into the head of a female professional photographer, who in her life, experiences many of the great events and turning points of the century.
The novel is written in the form of an autobiography replete with grainy back and white photos and traces Amory’s life from her middle class upbringing, through her colourful career, her various love affairs and on to her later years of reflection living in a small cottage on a b
Mar 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
There are some books that you really want to love, so when they’re good but not great it feels really disappointing. I was so excited to get an advance copy of Sweet Caress, William Boyd’s new book to be released in September. It was a treat I intended to savour. I loved Any Human Heart and I really like Boyd’s writing. Sweet Caress is being billed as another Any Human Heart -- but focused on a female protagonist. And I had – and continue to have – complete faith in William Boyd to pull off a go ...more
Elyse  Walters
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Who has not talked about 'those-things-your-parents-said-often', when looking back at your own life? Or talked about their parents disorders? Or tried to explain 'their' baggage? Their parents insecurities, shame, tragedies, their accomplishments?
Who has not talked about their siblings? Their characteristics?
Shared about their own lives? Their special friendships? Lovers? Hobbies? Achievements? Career? Regrets? School experiences? Sexual experiences? Self esteem issues? Travel adventures?

Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
However long your stay on this small planet lasts, and whatever happens during it, the most important thing is that – from time to time – you feel life’s sweet caress.

A fictional quote from a fictional character is used here to introduce us to the true-to-life memoirs of another fictional character: Amory Clay, our guide through three score years and ten of her ‘horizontal fall’ through the twentieth century. Amory is looking back at the past from the loneliness of a little island off the West
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amory Clay is a photographer travelling trough the world..
Amory Clays life is like a roadmap with milestones protruding aimlessly and chaotic..
But most of all Amory Clays life is the story of a life fully lived!!!

A few milestones of her life:

**The demi-monde of 1920s Berlin**
**New York in the 1930s**
**The Blackshirt riots in London**
**France during the Second World War**

William Boyd novel carries the title "Sweet Caress", the meaning is as follow:

"However long your stay on this small planet last
This story of the life and loves of a female photographer presents enough clarity of details across an interesting period of history to capture my imagination, but it left me with the task of breathing life into the character. Amory Clay is writing an account of her life from a late phase where she lives alone in a seacoast cottage in Scotland in the 70s. Despite the memoir format she is rather matter of fact about her relatively happy life and not anguished about her modest successes in her rel ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
William Boyd is accomplished at writing from the women’s point of view, and not in a soft, sentimental style. His women are fully dimensional and intelligent, and a combination of rare and familiar. In this, his bildungsroman of a woman growing up in the war years, he takes us with Amory to London, Berlin, New York, Paris, the Vosges, the Rhineland, Vietnam, California, and Scotland. The journeys of Amory Clay shaped her consciousness; her father's influence shaped the journeys of her heart.

May 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Most of us have had this experience: we’re at a party and a remarkable woman is holding sway; we’re attracted to her like moths to a candle. Her achievements…the illustrious people she knows…her daring pursuits…mesmerize us for the few hours we’re in her company. Yet we walk away feeling as if we only know what she chooses to reveal. At the end of the day, we realize we don’t really understand much about her at all.

That, in a nutshell, is how I felt about Amory Clay, the key character in William

Read by the lovely Barbara Flynn who you may remember from The Beiderbecke Affair

Description: In 1915, Amory's uncle unknowingly sets her life on its course when he gives her a Kodak Brownie No. 2 as a present for her seventh birthday, igniting a lifelong passion for photography. Her camera will take her from high society London in the 1920s to the cabaret clubs and brothels of inter-war Berlin; to 1930s New York, the Blackshirt riots in London's Eas
Iris P

What a whirlwind of a story, not sure if I love this book, but it's worth reading if only to get to know Amory Clay. What an alluring, intriguing character. She'll stay with me for a while...

Review to come...
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Books that guide you through a whole life can be magical.

I know that William Boyd has written that kind of book before and I’ve read his books before I’ve not read any that have been journeys right through lives. I’ve meant to, because I’ve read good things about them, but because I’ve liked some of his books more than others they’ve never quite come to the top of my reading queue.

Until now.

I found much to appreciate in the stories that Amory Clay had to tell, reaching back from the late seventi
William Boyd's latest novel advertises itself as 'the story of a woman - the story of a century'; the subtitle is 'The Many Lives of Amory Clay'. From the moment I first heard about it, I instinctively wanted to describe it as 'the female-focused version of Any Human Heart', and with that book prominently mentioned in the marketing copy, it seems the publishers are intending to push it in a similar way. Like Any Human Heart, it is the life story of one character - in this case, the photographer ...more
This book is good, but the author's Any Human Heart is better.....and they are so darn similar.

In both you get the history of the 20th century, although not the same historical events. Historical facts are always correct!

In both you visit places all over the world. Here it is England and Scotland and Paris, as well as Provence, and Berlin and Basel, Switzerland, and Vietnam and the US. The essence of each locale as well as the historical events that took place in each are well documented.

In th
Oct 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
What I don’t understand is why all the newspapers have been unanimous in praising this book. All friends together maybe? This book clearly isn’t one of Boyd’s best – in fact it’s really very poor indeed – so why the cronyism? Thank goodness for Amanda Craig in the Independent - she at least had the courage to tell it like it is. I have no objection to anyone reading this book, enjoying it and writing a positive review. It’s simply a matter of personal taste. But I am suspicious when otherwise in ...more
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Let me just say that by the time I was gulping down the end of this novel, I was completely convinced that Amory Clay was a real person. So convincing and full bodied, even if the inclusion of so many real life incidents and people did sometimes feel a little forced.

I loved the inclusion of black and white photos throughout and the overall theme of the ravages of war. Mostly, I ended up loving Amory and I'm afraid I'll miss her.
Chloe Fowler
Oct 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Nope, didn't get it. I read the whole long thing thinking 'any minute now I'm gonna get it'...but I never did. I didn't relate, like or even believe in Amory Clay and I didn't give a stuff about her either really. I only persevered because by the time I realised how unutterably bored I was I figured I might as well finish. Dreary dreary dreary.
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A truly great book. A wonderful read, so beautifully written it just flowed across the pages.
The author was so in tune with the main protagonist, one could think it was written by a woman.
Although Amory is a fictional character, the combination with real facts makes it feel like a biography. It's quite amazing that these young female journalists and photographers managed to travel to war zones, during this era, in a very male dominated environment.
I did feel some of the middle years, age 40- 5
Mar 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gal photographer sashays through the 20th Century - fitting in Weimar Berlin, Mosleys blackshirts, WW2 and Vietnam. Has affairs with married men. Settles down on Scottish estate. Produces two children. Dies.

Boyd does this type of story very well. I found myself turning just another page, then another, until before you know it it is 1AM, and work later.

Worth a read - though he has done better
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Boyd is a wonderful storyteller and one of my favourite authors as he sets scenes, and recreates time and place, so effortlessly. You really feel that you know his characters and understand their personalities, and the predicaments they face, and so you understand the choices they make.

Amory Clay is a complex individual, but aren’t we all ! And that is surely the thread running through every Boyd novel - the uniqueness and similarities present in every one of us make us all inconsistent
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
Jul 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Amory Clay is the female protagonist in Sweet Caress. The story is told in the first person. Amory, now in her late sixties is writing her life story. Chapters in the book also contain journal extracts charting her current life and how this biographical project progresses. Though the book reads like a memoir, it is a novel.

The beginning of the book I felt to be very strong and I was pulled into the story. It tells of Amory’s early family life and time in a boarding school. Since her father was
Susan Albert
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Sweet Caress is a multi-layered, richly confounding novel, the tale of a woman, Amory Clay, who lives life to the very fullest, to the very last moment (where you'll find a surprising twist). Boyd continually confronts reality in his novels, and in SWEET CARESS, continually reminds us that life is stranger than fiction, and fiction is stronger--and wider and deeper, more consistent and yet more contradictory--than life. Amory's voice is perfectly pitched (a nearly-insurmountable challenge for a ...more
Roger Brunyate
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bildungsroman, art
The Camera Cannot Lie

Earlier this year, I reviewed Boyd's 2002 novel Any Human Heart, one of several books he has written in what has clearly become a favorite form: tracing the life of a character over several decades, if not its entire span. I noted that the form itself seemed to have built-in problems, in that the density of a typical life, the pace at which one makes discoveries and takes risks, tends to thin out in the middle years, changing the feel of a whole-life novel from the heady thr
Ian Mapp
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit-fict
Such a damn good writer. I will be surprised if this is not my book of 2016.

If you've read Any Human Heart - you know what you are going to get here. If you haven't, I suggest that you do. Logan Mountstuart is one of the few literary characters that stays with me today, a long time after reading the book.

This is in a similar vein. Events of the 20th Century told through the personal experiences of one person, this time a photographer - Amory Clay.

The narrative pulls you in through the foreshadow
Sep 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved it, 4.5 stars, not 5. Why? Because there was something missing in the early pages, some mis-connection that I can't quite put my finger on. William Boyd reminds me of my idol, Graham Greene, and his ability as a storyteller puts him on equal ranking with my other love, Colm Toibin. My favourite authors, three males, I wonder why that is?
Amory Clay is a wonderful character, I really, really liked her, would love to sit in a bar with her and listen to her telling me about her life, her love
Sep 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audible
This is a book I read last year. I found it well written and entertaining but very superficial in many ways. The 'voice' the author gave the main female character seemed forced most of the times - I had the feeling that this was a fabrication not the portrayal of someone 'real'. The decor was also at times bland and stereotypical, not lived. Shame.
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime:
'Sweet Caress: The Many Lives of Amory Clay', the new novel from bestselling author William Boyd, follows one remarkable woman through the decades of the twentieth century.

In 1915, Amory's uncle unknowingly sets her life on its course when he gives her a Kodak Brownie No. 2 as a present for her seventh birthday, igniting a lifelong passion for photography. Her camera will take her from high society London in the 1920s to the cabaret clubs and brothels of inter-
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Completely random choice and an utter delight. Ambitious novel that spans the majority of the last century in narrative and photos. The later, because the heroine is a photographer and just like she sees the world through her camera lenses, the reader gets to see the world through her eyes. It isn't an easy life, but it's certainly an interesting one and fascinating to read about. Boyd name drops real persons, interweaving history into the narrative, aligning it with the photos and for the most ...more
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
William Boyd is another author that is often recommended to me but that I can't warm to. Not that I dislike his books. On the contrary, I'm often intrigued by his themes and by his writing. I just don't seem to be able to derive any satisfaction out of reading them.

Sweet Caress is a prime example of this dilemma:
The story follows the life of Amory Clay, a woman who in her youth defies the advice of her parents and sets out to become a photographer. Soon thrown into the throng of the roaring twen
Kasa Cotugno
In Sweet Caress, William Boyd attempts the same kind of sweeping saga (cliche intended) he employed in Any Human Heart, but this time, the protagonist is a woman. This may be why I felt a sort of disconnect. The 20th Century as seen through the eyes of a female photographer. But for some reason, it never really jelled for me. It may be that a smaller focus would have been more successful, that Boyd tried to incorporate too much. Many of the set pieces are routinely handled, with no originality o ...more
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Around the Year i...: Sweet Caress, by William Boyd 2 26 Apr 17, 2016 06:28PM  

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Note: William^^Boyd

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

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