Any Human Heart

This is one of my favourite novels of the last decade. William Boyd brilliantly re-creates a life lived on the periphery of great events of the twentieth century. Told in the form of a diary, the novel follows the life of Logan Gonzago Mountstuart from his roots in S. America and a minor public school, through Oxford and a brief stint as a spy working alongside Ian Fleming, to art dealer and writer in New York, poverty in London, and his final years in France, rubbing shoulders along the way with Picasso, Hemingway and Pollock, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and the Baader-Meinhof gang.

A wonderful evocation of twentieth-century life, often hilariously funny, sometimes poignant and a great roller-coaster of a read. William Boyd has turned to this form of novel-telling before - most notably, to great success, in his story of the life of Nat Tate, the American artist. Nat Tate was completely Boyd's own creation, so he was somewhat bemused at the book launch, to overhear memories of Nat Tate as remembered by those at the launch - there's a nice account of this on Wikipedia. Of course having been hoaxed once by Boyd the book reading public is unlikely to be so again, but the tale of Logan Mountstuart has such a ring of authenticity about it, and this is perhaps the book's greatest charm.

It reads just as well the second time as the first, with lots of extra bits and pieces that I missed the first time coming through on the second time of reading. I love this book, and can't recommend it highly enough, garrulous, readable, fun, and a great history of the mores of the twentieth century. Raise a glass to Logan Gonzago Mountstuart.


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