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Any Human Heart

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Logan Gonzago Mountstuart, writer, was born in 1906, and died of a heart attack on October 5, 1991, aged 85. William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart is his disjointed autobiography, a massive tome chronicling "my personal rollercoaster"--or rather, "not so much a rollercoaster", but a yo-yo, "a jerking spinning toy in the hands of a maladroit child." From his early childhood in Montevideo, son of an English corned beef executive and his Uraguayan secretary, through his years at a Norfolk public school and Oxford, Mountstuart traces his haphazard development as a writer. Early and easy success is succeeded by a long half-century of mediocrity, disappointments and setbacks, both personal and professional, leading him to multiple failed marriages, internment, alcoholism, and abject poverty.

Mountstuart's sorry tale is also the story of a British way of life in inexorable decline, as his journey takes in the Bloomsbury set, the General Strike, the Spanish Civil War, 1930s Americans in Paris, wartime espionage, New York avant garde art, even the Baader-Meinhof gang--all with a stellar supporting cast. The most sustained and best moment comes mid-book, as Mountstuart gets caught up in one of Britain's murkier wartime secrets, in the company of the here truly despicable Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Elsewhere Boyd occasionally misplaces his tongue too obviously in his cheek--the Wall Street Crash is trailed with truly crashing inelegance--but overall Any Human Heart is a witty, inventive and ultimately moving novel. Boyd succeeds in conjuring not only a compelling 20th century but also, in the hapless Logan Mountstuart, an anti-hero who achieves something approaching passive greatness. --Alan Stewart, Amazon.co.uk

480 pages, Paperback

First published January 25, 2002

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About the author

William Boyd

63 books1,772 followers
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 Moray, Scotland and then Nice University (Diploma of French Studies) and Glasgow University (MA Hons in English and Philosophy), where he edited the Glasgow University Guardian. He then moved to Jesus College, Oxford in 1975 and completed a PhD thesis on Shelley. For a brief period he worked at the New Statesman magazine as a TV critic, then he returned to Oxford as an English lecturer teaching the contemporary novel at St Hilda's College (1980-83). It was while he was here that his first novel, A Good Man in Africa (1981), was published.

Boyd spent eight years in academia, during which time his first film, Good and Bad at Games, was made. When he was offered a college lecturership, which would mean spending more time teaching, he was forced to choose between teaching and writing.

Boyd was selected in 1983 as one of the 20 'Best of Young British Novelists' in a promotion run by Granta magazine and the Book Marketing Council. He also became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in the same year, and is also an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has been presented with honorary doctorates in literature from the universities of St. Andrews, Stirling and Glasgow. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005.

Boyd has been with his wife Susan since they met as students at Glasgow University and all his books are dedicated to her. His wife is editor-at-large of Harper's Bazaar magazine, and they currently spend about thirty to forty days a year in the US. He and his wife have a house in Chelsea, West London but spend most of the year at their chateau in Bergerac in south west France, where Boyd produces award-winning wines.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,817 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,374 reviews3,192 followers
April 1, 2022
Can any single human heart take in all the history of the twentieth century? Any Human Heart is a story of one such heart which could hold within almost all the crucial events of this turbulent age. And the story is as sorrowful and rich as was the history of the century… But there is always hope for the future.
And suddenly I wonder: is it more of my bad luck to have been born when I was, at the beginning of this century and not be able to be young at its end? I look enviously at these kids and think about the lives they are living – and will live – and posit a kind of future for them. And then, almost immediately, I think what a futile regret that is. You must live the life you have been given. In sixty years’ time, if these boys and girls are lucky enough, they will be old men and women looking at the new generation of bright boys and girls and wishing that time had not fled by…

It is impossible to paint such a panoramic canvas specklessly but all inventiveness and colourfulness of the plot far outweigh all the minuscule speckles in the lush narration.
We just live and history is what we leave behind…
Profile Image for Kalliope.
682 reviews22 followers
March 18, 2013


I have liked this book a great deal more than I wanted to admit. It flows easily, and the diary format, with short entries and some gossipy ingredients, makes it hard to break away. This was addictive reading.

Several readers in GR have criticized that they do not like the main character. To me he comes across as an ordinary man, with weaknesses (alcohol and women), some cowardly reactions, but showing also bouts of integrity and a fair amount of self-honesty (to what extent does diary-writing invite to a truthful self-examination?).

As a sort of anti-hero, his story seems a twentieth century Education Sentimentale. But I wonder whether the main character and his development is the only center of the book. I think of him as a catheter-like mechanism that travels through the interstices of the Twentieth Century. He moves from Uruguay, to British public school, Oxford, London, Paris, Spain, Bermudas, Switzerland, New York, Nigeria, London again, Germany, France… Moving from place to place, he is taken in by the series of events that unfolded during the dramatic century: pre- to post- WWI; Paris Avant-Garde; Financial Crash and 30s Depression; Spanish Civil War; Crisis in the British Crown; WW2 with the London Bombings and the not-really-neutral Switzerland; again the Avant-Garde in NY in the 50s; Nigeria and the Biafra the following decade; and the 70s in decrepit London under the Labour Gov. or in Germany at the time of the Red Army Faction, etc…

The twentieth century itself emerges as the protagonist of the novel.

Boyd’s handling of facts and fiction is brilliant. He uses a typical trick found in historical novels and that can easily become a trap. In all this traveling through time, we walk through a gallery of the rich and famous (Waugh, Hemingway, Woolf, Picasso, the Windsors, etc…), but in Boyd’s pen it does not become ridiculous. He handles the edited diary form quite effectively. There are footnotes with data on real events and people, gaps are clarified through additional notes from the (fictional) editor, and finally a (fake) bibliography of the author... etc. No wonder readers at first thought that the main character had been a writer in real life.

In Any Human Heart, the life of an individual is tossed around by dramatic events so that it is hard to see to what extent the identity of any one person is shaped by circumstances and… “never say you know the last word of any human heart” (Henry James).

Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,016 reviews552 followers
August 17, 2022
I found this book to be different, in style, to others I’ve read by this author. After a couple of chapters I really wasn’t sure if I liked it at all but by the end I was totally captivated.

It’s written as a series of journal (diary) entries and tells the story of a life that’s been lived in every decade of the 20th Century - a life lived very much to the full. Once I got used to the style I found that I was quickly sucked into the life of the character through whose eyes the story is told. Some parts were truly laugh-out-loud funny (the section where he’s so hard up he starts eating dog food is just brilliant!) and the ending left me truly mourning a character whose whole life had simply been a figment of the writer’s imagination – very strange.

True, there are parts where the intermingling of significant world events, and particularly the way many famous names were dropped in, got a little tiresome and (for me) spoilt the flow of the story, but overall this is a superb read. I kept thinking about the book for days after I finished it. If you haven’t read Boyd before then you really should treat yourself to one of his many outstanding works. And I’d encourage fans of any genre to give this particular tome a try.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,094 reviews3,836 followers
July 14, 2015
I enjoyed this tremendously, even though I watched the TV adaptation a few weeks earlier, so I already knew the characters and plot (though there are some differences).

STRUCTURED AS MEMOIRS

This is presented as a compilation of journals kept by Logan Mountstuart from shortly before he left school in the 1920s until just before his death aged 85. Consequently, they describe things as they were at the time, with candour and an absence of hindsight. It also means there are gaps and changes of style. The pretence is carried further by the presence of footnotes (including "corrections" and even a reference to Boyd's own biography of an artist), an index and other later editorial notes, including Logan's introduction, in which he explains, "We keep a journal to entrap the collection of selves that forms us". I think it is the different voices of Logan at different times in his life that make the book work so well: often he is not very likeable, but he has a certain charm, and his triumphs are balanced by tragedy.

It is not a continuous narrative, but rather, broken down into journals covering significant periods in his life: school (establishing his key friendships with Peter Scabius and Ben Leeping); Oxford university; London as a writer and journalist (marriage, then a coup de foudre); naval intelligence in WW2; return to a changed London; NY (art dealer); Africa (teaching); London (including links with the Baader Meinhof gang) and finally, retirement in France.

The framework of the book lends teenage anxieties more poignancy, e.g. "as ever, my predominant emotion is one of disappointment... could this be the pattern of my life ahead? Every ambition thwarted, every dream stillborn?". At other times, Logan as an old man does insert a retrospective analysis, e.g. "I often wonder if those early sexual experiences with Tess and Anna warped me irrevocably" - a plausible attempt to justify some of his subsequent behaviour.

FAMOUS FRIENDS

A distinctive conceit of the book is the number of significant real characters Logan gets to know during his life: mostly authors (e.g. James Joyce, Ian Fleming, Virginia Wolf, Ernest Hemingway) and artists (Picasso, Paul Klee), but also the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I am not an expert on any of them, but it rings true, and feels a natural element of the narrative. The only weak part for me is the Baader Meinhof episode, but I suppose that is meant to balance and contrast with his earlier work in naval intelligence. Later on, Logan remembers being told that "the only point of keeping a journal was to concentrate on the personal... and to forget about the great and significant events in the world at large", but this book does both.

CATHOLICISM

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Logan's character is that he is a lapsed Catholic who is largely untouched by guilt, even though he has much to be guilty about. He can feel guilt, though only his son arouses it in him. He coldy explains "need and opportunity - the ingredients of all betrayals" and "I absolutely need variety and surprise. I have to have the city in my life... otherwise I dessicate and die". Yet he often feels a victim of circumstance, "A sense of my life being entirely out of my control - which is not the same as being out of control".

HAPPINESS?

The final question, and one Logan doesn't entirely resolve, is around the pain of having known true happiness - and lost it.

ME!

One detail that no one else would notice was that there were TWO, albeit very minor, characters called Cecily: Cecily Brewer, at whose home he lodged, and another Cecily who was his mother's housemaid.
Profile Image for J. Kent Messum.
Author 5 books222 followers
November 5, 2015
Thick, dense, and sprawling... not my usual fare, I must say, but I simply could not put this book down. 'Any Human Heart' is one of those rare long novels that pulls you in and holds you tight throughout its many pages. Exceptionally well written, William Boyd has a rare gift for effective and robust prose. 'Any Human Heart' has it all: love, laughter, pain, torment, tears, successes and failures. It's a masterpiece in every sense of the word.

The novel is the life story of an Englishman named Logan Mountstuart who was born at the turn of the 20th century and died close to the end of it. Told through journal entries from his early childhood all the way to his dying days, the book is deeply personal and heartfelt. Eighty-five years on this earth, and Logan experienced enough for several lifetimes. He was well-educated, well-traveled, and by the end of it well-versed in human emotion, conflict, and fallibility. His paths in life take him all over the world, to places both wondrous and dangerous. Along the way he has many relationships of many different kinds with an array of people. During his travels he comes into contact and rubs shoulders with some of the most famous and notorious names of the century, although he never becomes one himself.

'Any Human Heart' certainly turned out to be something unexpectedly special. Regardless of what type of genres you typically enjoy, I highly recommend this tale of one man's life lived to the fullest.
Profile Image for Lee.
22 reviews31 followers
December 22, 2014
I don't think I've ever mourned the end of a character in quite the way I mourned Logan Mountstuart, tears winding down my temples as I peeled through the last pages in bed last night. I don't tend to get all that emotionally invested in the things I read (sentimental sure, but I typically retain that sense of fictionality ("yes, it was very sad when the man stopped drawing the deer")) but the way the main body of Any Human Heart is presented as a salvaged journal scaffolded by biographical annotation lends an air of reality that is difficult to bear in mind as a mere artistic effect.

The characterisation is incredibly deft. Logan is somehow by the end a completely different man from the boy he was; somehow completely the same. Boyd's cleverest flourishes, perhaps, are the boring mundane little interludes: descriptions of lunches, the weather. The end-of-year summaries, those caught little reflections. The little pep talks, the hapless repeating/adapting of information. How some people disappear completely without another word on their fate. How others come back and come back and come back.

It's difficult-to-physically-impossible for me to believe LMS wasn't really a real person once. Spent all day at work today missing him; found myself last night thinking I should track down his published fiction. I've read a lot of fantastic novels these past months and this might not be the best, but it feels the most special. I feel like I learned the most about myself from it.

You gotta read this book.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,251 reviews49 followers
October 29, 2017
Another book I read as part of the project to revisit the 2002 Booker longlist - this is another difficult one to assess and review objectively because it covers such a variety of genres and subjects.

The book is the diary of a fictional writer Logan Mountstuart, and covers all parts of his long life from his last year at a minor public school in 1923 to his death in France in 1991. His life is constructed to cover some fertile fictional territory, but for me never quite coalesced into a coherent whole or left me caring much about his fate. It did allow Boyd to research a number of pet interests - the circumstances that inspired Ian Fleming to create James Bond, the New York art scene of the 1950s, the Spanish Civil War, conspiracy theories involving the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Biafran war, the Baader-Meinhof gang and more, and parts of the book are full of encounters with real people. In the final part .

The craft and the depth of the research are clear enough, and it does have sections that are very good, but overall I felt the book lacked coherence.
Profile Image for Tea Jovanović.
Author 411 books656 followers
March 31, 2013
Britanci su snimili sjajan film snimljen po ovoj knjizi... Kako to samo oni umeju da urade... :) A na ovog autora obratite paznju, odlican je...
Profile Image for Judith E.
522 reviews186 followers
October 24, 2020

The reader comes to know Logan Mountstuart through his lifelong journal entries. Entries that build the structure of Logan’s life and his world in the 20th century. There is plenty of name dropping (Picasso, Duke of Windsor, Jackson Pollock) and plenty of adventure (espionage, murder, war) and Boyd combines these elements like a symphony. His prose is flowing and the book’s construction never fails the reader.

I almost didn’t hang with this book after the beginning school year entries where boarding school shenanigans abound, but there is a reason for that and I would have missed out on an amazing reading experience if I had given up. The ending is one of the most poignant and moving conclusions I have read. I just want to sit with this one in my head for awhile.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
977 reviews1,092 followers
June 27, 2021
With the opening Henry James quote, I immediately knew this used bookstore find was a keeper.

Structured as the collected diaries of Logan Mountstuart, "Any Human Heart" is the story of a life that spanned most of the twentieth century. Because of the format, the style changes as Logan ages, there are gaps in the story when he didn't feel like writing, he can be touchingly confessional one moment and aggressively self-justifying the next. While he can certainly seem terribly self-involved, lustful and selfish, I found myself liking him very much for his honesty and self-awareness. Sure, he only feels guilty about the stuff he does when he is aware of having dropped in someone's esteem, but when he takes a second to look back at some events, he realizes their importance as turning points into what will become a life lived to the fullest.

Watching Logan be shaped by his life is a fascinating process, and I loved the recovered diary format. It captures something very candid about Logan's character that another style would not have carried across as well. It helped me believe in him and sympathize with him tremendously: I wanted to hold his hands through the tough parts and slap him when he was being a complete jerk. It also makes for a messy narrative at times, with some plot lines going unresolved, but that's what life is like, and I really appreciated the realism. I found myself occasionally forgetting that I was reading fiction! People change, grow, are shaped by their experiences and I feel like Boyd captured this long, slow process beautifully; and Logan's voice made the narrative compulsively readable and entertaining. He is in turn kind, thoughtless, passionate, pathetic, sad, endearing and frustrating. As are we all when life decides to knock us around.

The time at which Boyd decided to place Logan's birth is very clever, because his adult life then covers most of a rather eventful century, and he ends up bearing witness to most of it's significant events and cultural changes as they are happening. His acquaintances with historical figures of all kinds, from fellow writers Woolfe and Hemingway, to the Duke of Winsdor and Picasso himself - are not just pretentious name-dropping: they are simply people he bumped into at one point or another in his life, worked with or wish he'd never met. He was never as famous or important as them, but he is no less remarkable in his relative anonymity.

I feel like this is such a good but quiet book; I found Logan's story moving and strangely comforting, even when it was heartbreaking. In a way, I think I envy all his (mis)adventures and wanderings. I remember my grandfather's stories about being in the Franciscan order, then playing semi-professional baseball, then becoming a teacher and a headmaster, and it always seemed to me that people of that generation (he was born in 1919, passed away in 1998) seem like they had lived 10 lives, as where I sometimes feel like I can barely keep this one from going straight off the rails. Of course, the book is saturated with Britishness, which I can't get enough of, but it also strongly carried this spirit that life should be lived as truly and as fully as we can because it is inevitably fleeting.

I watched the miniseries that aired on the BBC and I also enjoyed it very much, even if a few elements have been changed. A colleague who saw me reading during a break recommended four other books by Boyd, and after "Any Human Heart", I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for more!
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
474 reviews573 followers
January 1, 2019
Any Human Heart was my final read of 2018, and as it turns out, a very appropriate one. It contains the journals of the fictional Logan Mountstuart, son of a wealthy British businessman, beginning with his account of attending a Norfolk public school. From there the diaries detail his days at university before he slips into a career as a respected writer. Everything seems to come quite easily to our narrator until World War II turns his life upside down.

Along the way Logan crosses paths with several of the twentieth century's most notable figures. He poses for Picasso, gets hammered with Hemingway and has a few choice words with Virginia Woolf. Some of these meetings are shoehorned into the narrative and feel like namedropping. But the most credible encounters occur when Logan develops a connection with these people - his uneasy conversations with the scheming Duke of Windsor, for example, are compelling and completely believable.

What kind of a person is Logan? Well he's intelligent, ambitious and confident, and he's just as mixed up about this world as the rest of us. He's also quite the womanizer but I think he's really chasing happiness. When he finally meets Freya, the love of his life, he is exhilarated and overwhelmed: "Freya Deverell. I have that feeling of heartrace, that bloodheat and breathgasp, just writing her name." But he also thanks his lucky stars that they happened to bump into one another: "It terrifies me, the fragility of these moments in our lives. If I hadn't lost my passport. If her father hadn't crashed the car and broken his leg. If she hadn't gone to the consulate at that precise hour... The view ahead is empty and void: only the view backward shows you how utterly random and chance-driven these vital connections are."

The book closes with Logan as an old man, looking back on his eventful existence. He examines his lot of joy and despair and decides that it wasn't such a bad innings after all. A bit like me at the end of the year, weighing up the good and the not so good, and being thankful for everything I've got. Few of us will live lives as colourful as Logan Mountstuart - we could all do without his share of heartbreak but his happy days would be the envy of most. Whatever surprises it may bring, I hope my Goodreads pals have a wonderful 2019.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,651 reviews1,485 followers
March 28, 2015
Yeah, I rally liked this book. Maybe it is even amazing.

I love it because it is set in France, both in Paris and villages along the coast, NYC, London, Spain, Nigeria, Reykjavik, the Bahamas and more.

I love it because it captures the WHOLE life of an ordinary man. It is about youth, the middle years and aging. Being a child and having children. It is about love, the physical attraction and the emotional one.

Logan, the central character, is, a man with strong sexual needs. Some may label him as immoral. Sure, if he were my husband I would be hurt and furious. But who am I to judge another human being? Who am I to say he was bad?

Any Human Heart captures the 20th Century. What we are reading is Logan's autobiography based on his private journals. He is who he is; at the same time he is aware of his own weaknesses. History is wonderfully woven in; Logan is NOT at the center of history’s outstanding events; that would be skewed. He is at the fringe. The book doesn’t teach the history of the 1900s but it shows how that century’s events intersected people’s lives and it gives tantalizing bits of less well known information, all historically accurate…as far as I can see. There are bits about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (i.e. the abdicated King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson), Axel Wenner-Gren, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the authors and artists of the Lost Generation, the Spanish Civil War, the Biafran War.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance. Not only are his French, English and American accents impeccable, but he also captures voice changes as one ages. His intonation of the aged Logan is fantastic. Just fantastic. French lines are not translated.

But really what makes this book so special is HOW it is written. It is the lines. That is the ingredient that is so hard to define, but which makes or breaks a book. I gave a few quotes below, but to understand how perfect they are you have to read those lines in context. I loved the subtle humor. I was smiling at lines that could have disgusted me, but I they didn’t. That is because they are spoken by Logan, and he is not me. Having read this book I understand Logan and that is why I can smile. I have seen the world through another’s eyes. A wonderful experience.

**********************************

I am nearing the end. Logan is 71. I am laughing and crying simultaneously. Ohhhhhh, the poor man. His diet! Do I dare tell you?

He was looking for tinned stew with vegetables.He spotted a tin with the words "plump chucklets of rabbit nestling in a rich dark gravy"..... but on the other side it was labeled Bowser! A tin of dog food on the wrong shelf! He thought, "If I bought six tins of Bowser, chopped up a carrot and onion and heated the whole thing in a saucepan.I might have a hearty rabbit stew that would last me a week..... And very tasty Bowser rabbit stew turned out to be, especially with a liberal addition of tomato ketchup and a good jolt of Worcester sauce. These last components, I would say, are essential for a all dog foods in my experience." Need I say he isn't doing so well financially? Just wait; you will also come to care for Logan.

***********************************

Almost half left:

With this book I realize I don't have to love the central character or any other character to enjoy a book. I like this book because of the lines, the way the author has the characters speak or express their thoughts. Logan, the central character, feels utterly REAL to me. His actions feel so genuine even if I don't happen to like them. I like how history is told through one person's life. The book has a good tempo. It has humor. I like how Logan travels around Europe, zigzagging between England, France and Spain, and we the readers can follow along. Good stuff. Also, the book is so simple to follow - no time jumps, no mystery puzzles, just a plain good story. A real person's life, that is how it feels.
Profile Image for Sonya.
773 reviews139 followers
November 15, 2008
When you start out, you'll think you might not like this book. The main character is arrogant and, well, young. Brash. But keep going through this fictionalized journal that keeps track of seventy years of a man's life, including his heartbreaks and strongest loves. Other reviewers bash it for its "Forest Gumpness," yet to me it's not all that unbelievable that an upperclass intelligence officer might have contact with influential persons during one of the world's most tempestuous and active periods in history. I've read several William Boyd titles now and he has repeatedly shown his ability to invent worlds I like inhabiting. It's a good winter read, fully sad, sweet, and satisfying.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,024 followers
March 20, 2016
I first heard of this book from Michael on the Books on the Nightstand podcast, the "favorite" he picked for the 2015 Booktopia discussions. I had never heard of Booktopia, a book lovers festival, until after it stopped being held in Asheville, NC, an hour from me. Sigh. I wanted to sort of play along anyway, and grabbed the two books the four podcasters chose that I hadn't previously read. This one has sat in my to-read piles for a while and I finally started it when I was looking for something I really wanted to be reading.

I shouldn't have waited so long! I read the first 200 pages without taking a breath (okay, not literally) and had to deliberately sit it aside so I wouldn't read it all in a day. The book is 500 pages long but is written as a succession of journals by Logan Mountstuart, starting from age 17 (in 1923) to the last few years of his life. He is British so of course that takes him through World War II but not in a typical narrative (thank goodness). LMS (as he is referred to throughout) is a writer but also works for an art dealer, for the government, and other assorted jobs. His journals follow different phases in his life, including different relationships, locations, and significant events.

LMS is not always the most likable of characters, but his voice is so distinctive and realistic that I think it is quite a success as a narrator. As a teen he is brash and cocky, and his elderly years are uncomfortably realistic in the ways he pinches pennies and maintains connections to old friends. The journals vary in tone and focus, just like a real person journals. When bad things are happening, he either journals drunk or not at all, again, like a real person journals. It made me wish I could keep a consistent journal going! In some ways, while his life is far more expansive, it took me back to Stoner in the reflections on a single life.

He feels real in other ways - the author has sprinkled in historical figures throughout, as well as treating the journals as a primary source with occasional introductory information and footnotes clarifying little bits.

Very readable, I enjoyed the approach, and as this author is an unknown to me, I'm curious to look at his other books.
Profile Image for ·Karen·.
610 reviews751 followers
Read
March 16, 2018
I do love William Boyd, but I think I should have read this back in 2002 when it first came out because now it feels like meeting up with an old friend that you haven't been in touch with for a while only to find that you have both moved on and no longer have much in common. Or maybe it suffered from my timing: coming to it after the wild joyride that Ali Smith can can give me, (a re-read of Autumn) it just seems a little conventional. But then William Boyd doesn't claim to be anything but a 'conventional' novelist, it's about plot and character. At the time he was, as he claims in this fascinating interview "pushing the boundaries of fiction into the world of the real and the documentary", but hey, now we no longer know where those boundaries are at all so it doesn't seem terribly bold.

Even more interesting to me personally in that interview was his opinion of Muriel Spark and Graham Greene's conversion to Catholicism:
Greene is someone I’m really interested in as a writer and as a case study. His Catholicism seems to me to be a complete sham, just like Muriel Spark, another writer I really admire who converted to Catholicism. Waugh’s conversion, on the other hand, was genuine – he needed it – whereas the other two I think did it and then found it useful to be “Catholic Novelists”. I’ve read a great deal about both Muriel Spark and Graham Greene and they seem to me to be the most irreligious people I can imagine. They paid lip service to religion but it doesn’t wash with me.
Forgive me, I just have a bit of a Muriel Spark bee in my bonnet at the moment.
Profile Image for Huw Rhys.
508 reviews12 followers
March 30, 2014
If you can imagine Johnny English meeting Rolf Harris meeting Forrest Gump meeting Grahame Greene meeting Adrian Mole (just after Sue Townshend lost interest in him), then you're not a million miles away from how the plot in this novel is set up.

And although it does contain a lot of banality along with quite a few other weaknesses, this doesn't spoil too much what is a very, very special novel.

When I read something that moves me, or resonates very strongly with me, I turn over the bottom of the page of a book. I suppose I have this vague idea that one day I'll go and find all these turned up pages in the books that I've read and.... do something. I probably turned up more pages in this book than in most of the other books I've read in the past 10 years, put together. It is just chock full of tasty, golden nuggets. Just comments on life really - but extremely perceptive comments, that really hit home.

At 480-odd pages, this does feel like a long book - but it doesn't read "long" at all - in fact, I was enjoying it so much that I rationed myself to small chunks for the last 80 or so pages, just because I didn't want to finish the book. I had the sense of "I'm missing you already" when I finished the last page.

You do get the notion that maybe an over enthusiastic sub editor must have been at work on the book though - there are a series of huge, very apparent narrative contradictions - and then the odd character gets introduced as if he/ she is familiar to us, when they quite patently aren't. You expect a back story further on, and it never appears, and you can only assume that an earlier reference to that character must have been chopped out by our visceral sub editor. But then, it's meant to be based on a series of diaries, so maybe the back story would be obvious to the writer.... one of the many extra layers that keeps you thinking, thinking again, and thinking once more long after you've put this book back on the shelf. Which makes you take it off the shelf again... which is no bad thing at all, is it?

But as I say, the apparent frequent flaws don't actually detract too much from your enjoyment of this terrific story- in fact, the flaws mirror the life of our hero, Logan Mountstuart. He's no perfect specimen, but then who is? That's one of the many reasons that this book is so good.

One of the rare books that I'll be putting on my "must read again" list. I loved it.
Profile Image for Stefanie.
58 reviews12 followers
December 7, 2007
Didn't really like it. It's written as a diary, and covers a good chunk of the 20th century. Logan, the diarist, didn't compel me in the slightest, he was flat. Although he experienced some exciting things in his life, from meeting Hemingway and Picasso, to being imprisoned as a spy, I found him boring. I did read it through, which is something.... I kept hoping to start caring about him. But I never did. Perhaps it's the diary form that disagreed with me--I think it may be the first of that style that I've read.
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,792 reviews106 followers
August 11, 2015
I finished the book last night, and did not sleep well. What do I feel? Grief. How does one grieve for someone who was not real? Will write up a review after I've had some time to process....

Later ....

There is an old adage that what you observe closely you cannot help but love. That is how I feel about Logan Mountstuart. In many ways LMS is an ordinary man who lives in extraordinary times, but he is not the hero of the times he lives in, but rather on the fringes of it. Yes, he travels widely and has encounters with many famous people, but this is really a personal story of one man's life. One that unfolds through intimate journal entries. We first meet LMS when he is teenager, and follow along on all his (mis)adventures, loves, and heartbreaks through to his eighties.

Such is the skill of the author, that not only did I get to know LMS, but I grew to love him, and when the book ended, it felt like a much beloved great uncle had died. Yes, grief is what I feel. There is a gap in my life that Logan Mountstuart used to inhabit. He will be greatly missed.

A word on the audio production. This story was narrated by the wonderful Simon Vance. The narration is probably the best work by Simon I've heard yet, and that is saying something. He changes the timbre of his narration, so we feel like a young LMS is sharing his secrets with us at the start of the story, and then as LMS ages, Simon's reading gets deeper, more crackly, and elderly. Simply wonderful.

I'm not sure why I waited so long to read this one, and if you have yet to read it, I highly recommend the audiobook. I've got my hands on the TV adaptation, and am delighted to be spending some extra time with Logan Mountstuart.
Profile Image for João Carlos.
646 reviews277 followers
October 29, 2015

Fotograma da série televisiva “Any Human Heart” – Channel 4

“Viagem ao Fundo de Um Coração”, “Any Human Heart” (2002) no original, escrito pelo inglês William Boyd (n. 1952), é um livro de memórias - “Os Diários Íntimos de Logan Mountstuart” - um romance narrado na primeira pessoa por Logan Mountstuart que subdivide o seu diário em função de acontecimentos ou factos determinantes – “O Diário do Colégio”, “O Diário de Oxford”, “O Primeiro Diário de Londres”, “O Diário da Segunda Guerra Mundial”, “O Diário do Pós-Guerra”, “O Diário de Nova Iorque”, “O Diário Africano”, “O Segundo Diário de Londres” e “O Diário Francês” – com o seu início a 10 de Dezembro de 1923.
Com 17 anos de idade, Logan Mountstuart decide redigir um diário, que o vai acompanhando toda a vida, por vezes de uma forma intermitente, um registo íntimo que começa com a “determinação de ser total e inabalavelmente verídico”. “Existem aspectos das nossas vidas – coisas que fazemos, sentimos e pensamos - que não ousamos confessar, nem sequer a nós próprios, nem sequer na absoluta privacidade das nossas notas pessoais?". (Pág. 14)
“Qualquer vida é, à vez, vulgar e extraordinária: são as proporções respectivas dessas duas categorias que fazem com que essa vida pareça interessante ou enfadonha.” (Pág. 15)
Afinal quem é Logan Gonzago Mountstuart? Nasceu a 27 de Fevereiro de 1906, em Montevideu, no Uruguai, filho de pai britânico e mãe uruguaia, regressando a Inglaterra, à cidade de Birminghan, com 13 anos de idade, para ingressar num colégio interno para rapazes – Abbeyhurst College e faleceu a 5 de Outubro de 1991, em Sainte-Sabine, França.
Logan Mountstuart, é um escritor, um jornalista e crítico literário e de arte, espião, professor, um marchand de arte, uma personagem fascinante, um apaixonado pelo golfe ("a sua principal virtude!"), um ser humano com defeitos e qualidades, que ama e que odeia, excepcionalmente individualista e idiossincrático, que consegue superar as suas tragédias pessoais, que omite e que mente, egoísta e generoso, casado três vezes, promíscuo sexualmente e que vai envelhecendo, num declínio mais físico do que intelectual, mas que o tornam num homem cada vez mais só.
Nessa sua viagem pela vida e pelo ambiente literário e artístico do início do século XX, Logan Mountstuart, acaba por se “cruzar” com inúmeros escritores, com destaque para Evelyn Waugh, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce e, sobretudo, para Virginia Woolf, com quem tem uma discussão violenta em Londres; e pintores, alguns já consagrados e outros à procura da fama, como Picasso, Kooning, Pollock e "Nat Tate", entre muitos outros, com quem se vai “cruzando” por Paris, França, Oxford, Londres e Nova Iorque.
No seu diário da Segunda Guerra Mundial, Logan Mountstuart, é convertido pelo escritor Ian Flemming num espião dos serviços de informação secreta da Marinha e é nesse período que acompanhamos a sua viagem a Lisboa, para “vigiar” o duque de Windsor (Rei Eduardo VIII de 20/1 a 11/12 de 1936, abdicou por amor) e a sua mulher a “divorciada” americana Wallis Simpson. “Estavam a viver em casa de um milionário português chamado Ricardo Espírito Santo, em Cascais...” (Pág. 205) numa descrição brilhante sobre a zona da Boca do Inferno e a imensidão do Oceano Atlântico.
“Viagem ao Fundo de Um Coração” é uma viagem inesquecível sobre a busca incessante da felicidade e do amor, sobre a ascensão e queda, sobre o caos da guerra e as suas dramáticas consequências, sobre a problemática e as vicissitudes da paixão e do sexo, sobre os efeitos nefastos do álcool e da depressão, sobre o declínio e o envelhecimento - um livro criativo, simultaneamente, dramático e divertido – altamente recomendado para os “amantes” da literatura.


"... viver a vida dentro de horizontes limitados. Estabelecer objectivos modestos, ambições alcançáveis. Infelizmente, nem todos nós o conseguimos." (Pág. 77)

"Que vida engraçada que levaste, Logan." (Pág. 339)



Clube de Golfe do Estoril - Portugal
Profile Image for Roger Brunyate.
946 reviews631 followers
December 30, 2017
One Man's Twentieth Century

William Boyd seems to like the panoramic novel, a saga that follows the course of a single character for most of a lifetime, while managing to give a history of a large swath of his century. He first did it (I think) in 2000 with The New Confessions, then this one in 2002, then Waiting for Sunrise in 2012. I believe he is coming out with a new one in the genre in 2015, this time with a female protagonist, entitled Sweet Caress. Any Human Heart exemplifies both the huge strengths of the genre and its weaknesses. For nearly 300 pages, it is marvelous, a page-turner. After that, though still intermittently brilliant, it rather loses focus and momentum. But then so do all too many of our human lives.

"Logan Mountstuart—writer, lover, art dealer, spy" says the blurb, and that's as fair a description as any. We first meet him in 1923 as a senior at boarding school, preparing for entrance to Oxford. His two best friends there will stay in touch: one follows in Logan's shoes as a novelist; another becomes an art dealer, and much later will get Logan to run his gallery in New York. Logan himself is an eclectic writer, coming out with books and articles of literary and art criticism as well as a couple of novels. Meanwhile, he meets many of the artistic and social figures of the day: Virginia Woolf (whom he could not stand), Hemingway (who helps him at a crucial moment in Spain), Picasso (who dashes off a quick sketch that later supports him at a bad period), Ian Fleming (who gives him an intelligence job in the war), and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (a more complicated story culminating in a true incident that shows the former King in a very bad light).

In many ways, the novel covers much the same ground as the twelve-volume cycle A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell, who also makes a brief appearance in Boyd's novel. The main difference, other than its briefer and less patrician nature, is the introduction of real figures and events. For Any Human Heart is presented as a collection of Logan Mountstuart's journals. As one who generally avoids non-fiction, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this quasi-factual element. Logan's voice is honest and attractive, and Boyd's quasi-scholarly "editing" (complete with footnotes and even an index) is masterly. So long as events were reasonably continuous, I was hooked. I think I could have done with less of Logan's life as a lover, for although there is true love in there somewhere, he is insufficiently able to control his libido, and exhibits an unerring instinct for sexual self-sabotage.

All the same, I was in clear five-star territory until the final third. But then something of Logan's high-flying ability deserts him. During an altercation in New York, someone calls him a loser. Reflecting on it later, Logan realizing that the term is more of an insult for an American than a European, who normally expects his life to wind down. "What in the New World is the ultimate mark of shame, in the Old prompts only a wry sympathy." I can buy that, to a degree; I am that age myself, and also British. But looking back, I believe I can see a pattern to my own life, certainly a more or less consistent set of guiding principles. With Logan Mountstuart, however, that is harder, especially as the journals become more spaced out, no longer following a continuum, but tracing a series of mere anecdotes. He spends time in Nigeria at the time of the Biafran war; he crosses paths with the Baader-Meinhof gang; he runs into ugly memories of the German Occupation and French Resistance. All interesting in themselves—but what happened to the lust for life that carried this splendid protagonist well into his forties? What, alas!
Profile Image for T.D. Whittle.
Author 3 books186 followers
March 14, 2022
I was a child who loved lots and lots of things and hated only a few, but I did both with great passion. It was all love or hate with not much in between. Of course, that's what being a child is like for many of us. But there was always some smartypants kid (cynical by age ten) who would sneer at anyone making an adoring comment about an object they cherished and say, "Well, if you love it so much why don't you marry it?" And then all the other kids would laugh and not admit to loving anything themselves.

Anyway, I was thinking about those kids as I hugged this book to my chest at three o'clock this morning after staying up all night finishing it because there was no other choice really. Sometimes, a woman must finish her five-hundred page book, or die trying. I had not read William Boyd until now so I'd no idea Any Human Heart would grip me so strongly. The house could have caught fire for all I knew because I completely disappeared into Logan Montstuart's life for nearly five hundred pages.

I only learnt from reading Cecily's review that there's a BBC movie too so now I have to try to find that so I can love it truly, madly, deeply too.

NB: There is a lot of humour in this book and some quite subtle jokes. A not-so-subtle one relates to the artist Nat Tate who comes to a dramatic end by tossing himself off the Staten Island Ferry, in the manner of poet Hart Crane. Here's an article The Biggest Art Hoax In History about the brief tormented life of young artist Nat Tate, which turns out to be very funny.
Profile Image for Karen Pine.
54 reviews
October 11, 2012

One sign of a good book is the sense of emptiness that lingers once the last page has been reluctantly turned. So it was with Any Human Heart, which completely and utterly spoiled me for whatever came next*. On finishing the book I found I missed the central character, Logan Mountstuart enormously, as if his death had been the death of someone I knew and loved. Logan, with all his failings, manages to charm and beguile the reader in the way he charmed many who crossed his path. I loved his wit, his humour and, at times, his sheer anarchy and disregard for convention, religion and mediocrity.
“Shelley was so right, atheism is an absolute necessity in this world of ours. If we are to survive as individuals we can rely only on those resouces provided by our human spirit – appeals to a deity or deities are only a form of pretence. We might as well howl at the moon.”
Despite his tendency towards self-destruction, philandering and doing everything to excess, often to the detriment of himself and those around him, there is something irresistible about Logan. I realise I read a lot of women writer’s and see their world viewed through a female lens but William Boyd gave me an uncensored view of the world (and women) through a man’s eyes, which at times was revealing. I learned a lot about the male libido. I repeatedly found myself sharing his pain, particularly at the devastating (and unexpected loss to him and the reader) of his wife and daughter. Even the death of his dog towards the end of the novel reveals his frailty and compassion and desperate loneliness, without ever being clichéd or over-sentimental. As Logan’s life, from a teenager to a dying octogenarian, unravels on the pages it’s hard to believe one isn’t reading the diaries of a real person. The meetings with Hemingway, Picasso, Woolf etc all fit seamlessly into the novel, imbuing it with culture and intellectualism without ever any hint of name-dropping contrivance, implausibility or elitism. He poignantly builds a picture of Logan’s life by waylaying and detaining the reader with anecdote upon anecdote.

*For me, this Amazon reviewer sums it up:
I read pretty much continuously, but was unable to pick up another book for almost two weeks after finishing this - there was no point, I was...replete. It stayed with me for ages - this is the literary equivalent of a nine-course meal with a great bottle of wine. Deeply satisfying.

The final pages, when Logan has moved to France are beautifully poignant and evocative. From the New York Times:
“In bereft old age the voice simplifies and deepens: relinquishing his maze of purposes, Logan retains only one or two. He has moved to the Midi, where his penury pinches less and his slender means go farther.”
Boyd makes his love of France not only evident but alive. The beauty of place, of light, of manners -- the villagers are tactfully helpful to an old man whom they honor as an écrivain -- extend Logan's resources far differently than the dog food that stretched his diet in London.”

Boyd’s descriptions of food and simple pleasures abound in this novel, his later descriptions of France are sumptuous and, early on, when a young man at Oxford he says….
“After morning chapel Peter and I had a couple of free periods so we went into Abbeyhurst and took tea and crumpets at Ma Hingley’s. Hot crumpets with butter and jam – what could be more ambrosial? The day I can’t enjoy these pleasures will signal some kind of death of the soul.” (p.57)

In France about 60 years later:
The pleasures of my life here are simple – simple, inexpensive and democratic. A warm hill of Marmande tomatoes on a roadside vendor’s stall. A cold beer on a pavement table of the Café de France – Marie Therese inside making me a sandwich au Camembert. Munching the knob off a fresh baguette as I wander back from Saint-Sabine. The farinaceous smell of the white dust raised by a breeze from the driveway. A cuckoo sounding in the perfectly silent woods beyond the meadow. The huge grey, cerise, pink, orange and washed-out blue of a sunset seen from my rear terrace. The drilling of the cicadas at noon – the soft dialling tone of the crickets as dusk slowly gathers. A good book, a hammock and a cold, beaded bottle of blanc sec. A rough red wine and steak frites. The cool, dark, shuttered silence of my bedroom – and as I go to sleep the prospect that all this will be available to me again, unchanged, tomorrow. (p.479)

What a stunning passage. I am there, in France, totally. I went to an evening with Boyd at the Groucho Club in 2011, just before the televising of Any Human Heart, and asked him whether he was as pre-occupied with food as his characters appear to be. He told me he uses food as a 'shortcut' to describe his characters, you can tell a lot about a person from what and how they eat,

Another sign of a good book is the number of passages I want to remember and revisit (I mark them by turning in the bottom corner of the page) – this book was replete with them. It remains one of my all-time favourite reads.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,726 reviews4,080 followers
February 25, 2017
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.)
Profile Image for Brad Lyerla.
207 reviews154 followers
February 22, 2022
ANY HUMAN HEART takes the form of the collected and edited journals of Landon Mountstuart, a British author and art aficionado, who was born in the first decade of the 20th century and who died in the last. It is a fine novel and I loved reading it while on vacation. It is great recreational reading.

Mountstuart began journaling while still a schoolboy and continued, off and on, until near the time of his death. The arc of his life included: taking a lowly third at Jesus College at Oxford University; success as an author in his 20s (he published a serious work of literary criticism and a popular novel during that time); covering the Spanish Civil War as a journalist; serving in the Royal Naval Intelligence during WWII; being captured by the Swiss and imprisoned during the war; selling art in New York City in the 50s and 60s; becoming involved with Bader Meinhof-related terrorists in London during the 70s; retiring to southwest France and living out his last years happily there. It is a tale of some significant historical sweep.

During his lifetime, Mountstuart meets many people of historical, literary or artistic significance: Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor, Hemingway, Picasso, Virginia Woolf, Ian Fleming and more. He is married 3 times, once happily. He fathers two children. His life is adventurous and full.

But his journal focuses very heavily on his sex life, money problems and drinking. He is bust and flush many times during his tumultuous career. His sex life is vigorous, if not always admirable. And his drinking is Olympian.

To fully enjoy this book, I imagine that a reader should know a fair amount about the cultural life of Western Europe and NYC during the last century. If you don't, you may miss many of the connections -- and much of the fun. Therefore, I do not recommend ANY HUMAN HEART to anyone born after, say, 1965. But I heartily recommend it for everyone else.
Profile Image for F.R..
Author 27 books191 followers
February 26, 2015
I’ve never kept a diary myself, but do have admiration for those who do. It seems to me to require a level of dedication that even a humble scribbler of fiction like myself would find hard to maintain. I don’t write every single day, let alone every single evening, and besides I like to make stuff up. The fictional diary then perhaps offers the ideal halfway house for a novelist, allowing the form but without the chore of writing about every single day, no matter how little has actually happened.

Of course to follow in the footsteps of a Mr Pooter or an Adrian Mole, you need the right character – and in ‘Any Human Heart’ William Boyd has created a vivid and compulsive central figure. (And certainly one with more oomph than those literary ancestors I mischievously mentioned). This is a man who is there or thereabouts in exciting times, but is also interesting enough himself to make one care about the minutiae of his life. Logan Mountstuart is a bit like Zelig, or maybe Flashman is the better literary comparison – a man who meets more than his share of great people and is perched again and again at the edge of history. He is a novelist in the Thirties, then a wartime spy with Ian Fleming, before becoming an art dealer in New York and then an elderly London anarchist. Much like in a Flashman novel there are footnotes showing how real the characters he meets actually are. Not that it’s just a spotter’s guide to The Twentieth Century, but instead manages to be a touching and actually moving examination of the various stages of one character’s life.

Some sections do drag more than others – the African diary, those final years in France – but I found this a fascinating read, both brilliant for someone who likes Twentieth Century history, but also for fans of well crafted and genuinely affecting fiction.
Profile Image for Diane .
375 reviews13 followers
June 15, 2022
UPDATED TO 5* today, June 15, 2022. It just kept nagging at me that I only gave 4* Giving this book a 4, very close to a 5 star read, another of our GR NI BV's a tradion that I love and look forward to always.

I was enthralled with the story of Logan Mountstuart (LMS) from the time story began right up until the final page. I also have to add how impressed I am thinking of the level of research the author had to do; William Boyd was born in 1952 yet this book is PACKED with so much historical fiction of varying degrees it was really astounding to me.

Some of the writing was so moving and emotional that I can't even describe it. I think that everyone who has read this will have feelings for Logan that are all over the map. Sometimes he infuriated me with the choices he made, but it also made me take a look at my life over the years and there are certainly some things I have done of which I am not proud. So who am I to cast stones. Overall, I really felt such an attachment to him and felt all of his ups and downs, reveled in his joys and cried over his losses.

It took me just about a month to read this one- it's a biggie and for me it was one to be savored. It was often deep, not a quick or easy read for me; I'd describe it for sure as a saga as we journey with Logan throughout his entire life.

What a brilliant book, and how the author not only gives us Logan's life and all that it holds, but to be able to disperse so many real life people, places and events as well is brilliant to me. I must google to see how long it took him to write this book.

Another update on June 15, 2022: I made LOTS of notes in this book as I read it (this is what we do when a book is part of our Book Voyage - read, make notes throughout and pass it on to our next friend who is reading it). In retrospect, I am so glad I did because when I found myself needing to do my review here, I realize there is just so much to this book by way of story, emotion, history, that I couldn't possibly post it all and remember all of the details that struck so much feeling in me.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,270 reviews696 followers
September 17, 2014
4.5/5
That was a good life. A good, male life, lived through almost the entirety of the twentieth century. Or at least, it made for good reading material, but I'd like to think that in the end, Logan was happy in the least regretful sense that an old man can be.
I have to say, becoming a writer was probably the best thing he could have done in this time period. He met so many renowned folks, and took part in so many historical events as he traveled the world over. That may be my bias towards writing over other occupational paths talking, but you have to admit, people like Hemingway and Joyce popping up made the writing especially interesting. And it was in such a natural, unassuming sense. It's only much later that Logan realizes the worth of these chance meetings, and he never really stops being surprised at that being the case.
Besides that, I really don't think that the summary of this book does Logan justice. Yes, he accumulated failed marriages as a result of his womanizing, but had the tragedy of WWII not occurred, I believe that this particular trait would have been greatly reduced in his character. Also he didn't end his life in absolute poverty. Unless my definition of poverty is different from the standard.
All in all, I really enjoyed reading about this life that interacted so often with the world at large, both in the historical as well as the locational sense. It was also interesting to watch Logan's writing change over time as his life shifted around his values. His last years were especially beautiful, and it's regretful that he had to become a very old man in order to finally appreciate the simple life enough to write about it. But that's what always happens, I suppose.
Profile Image for Paul Ataua.
1,245 reviews119 followers
August 13, 2017
William Boyd is one of the great storytellers. He has that ability to get you to keep turning the pages. Unfortunately, this is not a great story, and try as I did to get behind the main character, I found no sympathy for or interest in him. I longed for the earlier Boyd of Brazzaville Beach, and 'any Human Heart' did nothing for me. The three stars are for the style, and the way the author kept me reading. The absence of the last two stars is down to the poverty of the story.
Profile Image for R..
21 reviews11 followers
February 10, 2010

This is not my favorite book, this is not the most lofty book I've ever read, its not going to break into the top ten list (although I think it has become cemented into the top 20) However, It was a total page turner that kept me up late and wishing my subway rides would last longer but some how managed to feel important and slightly intellectual at the same time. It was amazing and I'm afraid to even recommend it because if you don't love it as much as I did it will break my heart.

There are many things about this book that just shouldn't work- how is this seemingly slightly above average guy some how involved with half of the major events of the 20th century? How can a dairy format possibly create such strong characters and engaging dialogue? Isn't he just a tad pretensions? William Boyd manages to overcome all of these problems and create an interesting and somehow utterly believable main character.

If you like books that feature disgruntled British writers, famous modern artists and authors, World War II and British History, sexual encounters mixed with some unrequited love and loss, then you will likely be interested in this book. If, like me, you love all of the above then you will be obsessed with this book.

For a plot summary or things of that nature check out other Goodreads reviews or amazon. I just had to share a few thoughts on this book just in case you are waiting to read it and will absolutely adore it but just don't know it yet!
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