reginadelmar’s #CBRV Review #9 Any Human Heart by William Boyd

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I’ll confess that as I started into this book, my first thought was “Oh God, not another story of a privileged Englishman with its usual beginning of boys’ antics at public school. “ The protagonist’s name is Logan Mountstuart, which sounds about as British upper crust as they come, and I was prepared to put the book down after the first 30 pages or so.

I overcame my initial reluctance, and read on. The book is constructed as a fictional biography of Mountstuart told through journals he keeps throughout his eighty-plus years. We learn early that he will pursue writing as a career, and thus his journaling is a logical vehicle for the telling of his life. Mountstuart participates in as well as observes the literary and art circles of the 20s and 30s in Paris and London. At first I was somewhat put off by his interactions with real persons: Woolf, Hemingway, Picasso, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and many others. For a moment I felt like I was reading something like “Midnight in Paris” and images of Owen Wilson kept coming to mind. As time goes on the device of Logan interacting with the real and famous ends up working and actually are believable. He lives an interesting life, not an extraordinary one. He is ultimately a survivor of good and ill fortune, of love and loss.

At almost 500 pages Any Human Heart makes the reading slow going at times. This may be because Logan is by no means heroic.  His relationship with women is mostly self-centered. One can imagine the rebuttals that his ex-wives might have written given the chance. Despite his problems with women, Logan is primarily decent and principled. For some reason I found the later years of Mountstuart’s life the most pleasurable read. He is at his most humorous when faced with the adversities of old age.  In one of his last journal entries, now well in his eighties, he watches young women on the beach and contemplates their future and his past. He feels pride in just having lived his own life, his own experiences. In so doing, he thinks; “Play on, boys and girls, I say, smoke and flirt, work on your tans, figure out your evening’s entertainment. I wonder if any of you will live as well as I have done.” Can any of us wish for more?

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