Recommended by my good friend J I decided to read William Boyd for the first time and I have to say I regret waiting so long. I approached Any Human Heart with an open mind and simply enjoyed the writing, the literary device of a journal and the gentle sketching in of many historical events. I particularly liked the way in which events of national importance which we feel often grip us totally when they are occurring actually probably hit us only tangentially and our lives continue almost undisturbed. The way events were relayed from the perspective of Logan Mountstuart, the narrator and fictional central charter of his diaries was authentically done.
The writing itself was a joy and made a lengthy book fly by with much pleasure. It was funny and sad in equal measure and I felt I had been let into a life which had been full of ups and downs, but always seemed to conclude with disappointment. I have sometimes wondered in my more melancholic moments whether all happiness is but a prelude for unhappiness. Though a glass half full sort of person, moments of joy and contentment do not last no matter how hard we try. This is perfectly displayed in this novel, the fallability of success and contentment.
I resisted researching one key question until the book was finished. That was – was it autobiographical, was it based on a real individual or was it simply fiction. It is of course the latter but such is the convincing way in which the diary unfolds and the seamless links to real people it was tempting to see it as a diary of a living individual. This is a worthy read and will be a contender when I come to finish by HK odyssey for Book of the Sabbatical.
Boyd (sic) by this read I turned to another Boyd book released in 2009 – Ordinary Thunderstorms. Again it displayed all the hallmarks of a good read – well written, interesting characterisation and a compelling storyline. Though ostensibly just a thriller the depth of characterisation threatened, though in my view, did not strangle the essence of the story which was fascinating. Showing how a life can be pushed to extreme opposites by being in the wrong place at the right time this novel is worthy of a read. I liked the central character, Adam and enjoyed the other characters who though playing smaller roles were given due attention by the author.
I’m back on my last Man Asian Book read now just two weeks away from the announcement. I have also discovered a Facebook site, (logo above) which is all about the prize though no one actually contributes other than the site owner and me!! Tried to get a conversation going either by my search for the missing books or the content of those I had read. Commisserated with Sarita Manhanna on not being short listed but relieved that the short list contained only one missing book. A frantic search revealed an Amazon-like Indian site which delivers overseas and it duly arrived earlier this week.
I am also going to a book reading with the authors the night before the announcement which promises to be a new experience. I will then review the five and put online before the announcement who I think might be the winner. Knowing my track record for predicting the Man Booker Prize (tried 3, success nil) this is likely to be the death knell to my choice. It will be fascinating to see if seeing the authors has any impact on my assessment. There is also an ongoing series on local HK radio reviewing each of the short-listed books and I have so far managed to listen to one of them which was an interesting debate.