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Any Human Heart

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  17,070 ratings  ·  1,568 reviews
Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary, but Logan Mountstuart's - lived from the beginning to the end of the twentieth century - contains more than its fair share of both. As a writer who finds inspiration with Hemingway in Paris and Virginia Woolf in London, as a spy recruited by Ian Fleming and betrayed in the war and as an art-dealer in '60s New York, Logan mixes ...more
Published April 1st 2003 by Penguin Canada (first published January 25th 2002)
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Average rating 4.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,070 ratings  ·  1,568 reviews

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Jun 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-english

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 in
Andrew Smith
Jul 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. Som
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).


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.
Vit Babenco
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
J. Kent Messum
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
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, ldn, oxbridge
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 anno ...more
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Judith E
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

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 boar
Peter Boyle
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 sev
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 i
Sep 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 per ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2016
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 ...more
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 'co ...more
Huw Rhys
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
(view spoiler)

The TV miniseries was just as good, maybe because Boyd wrote the screen play. Fully recommended.
Elizabeth A
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 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 an
Roger Brunyate
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
T.D. Whittle
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews, william-boyd
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 t ...more
Karen Pine
Oct 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

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,
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 Fingersmit
With the opening Henry James quote, I immediately knew this used bookstore find was a keeper.

Structured as the collected diaries of Logan Mountstuart, "Every 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, lust
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 07, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 sty ...more
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 writ
Brad Lyerla
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Univers
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

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 man
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved the early chapters recapturing Logan's boarding school days , and his trials and tribulations within his peer group, then the teenage anxieties negotiating various rites of passage, and the passages dealing with the Duke of Windsor, but got bogged down in mid section when Logan is imprisoned in Switzerland. Not sure that, for me, the book really recovered after that prolonged incarceration.

And, added in April 2018......I remember hearing Ian McEwan interviewed and saying that he hoped his
Katie Lumsden
I have such complicated mixed feelings about this. I love the scope of it, how it spans one man's life from his teens to his 70s, from the 1920s to the 1980s, how it covers so much British and global history. I loved the format and found the writing and some of the themes very interesting. However, the narrator is very sexist and sexualises every woman he meets, which aside from being problematic also gets quite repetitive over the course of the book. It reminds me both of Anthony Powell's A Dan ...more
Jonathan Pool
I first read Any Human Heart ten years ago, and my short, five star review reflected much to like,(though I had a much lesser interest in reading widely at that time).
This was my original review:

If you like William Boyd, this will not disappoint.
Written in the style of diary entries spanning life from birth to death. Historical events provide a recognisable structure and our diarist inserts himself into history. World War ll, Hemingway, Picasso.
Logan Mountstuart traverses a life from establishme
Jan 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An intimate journal of Logan Gonzalo Mountstuart (LMS) and a life...well, lived. The writing is captivating, 70 odd years of escapades, heartbreak, moderate promiscuity and lots of alcohol. The sliding doors of his life, traversing the 20th century are reminiscent of Forest Gump (sans the low IQ) with some characters just as i imagined (Hemingway – drunk, impulsive, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor – vapid, vain), and others not so much – (Virginia Woolf as a florid racist?)

Like, I suppose, most
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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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