A friend of mine, an astute book reader, has a theory on the popular William Boyd that he apes very genre of modern writing : his early works set in Africa are redolent of Waugh, Restless of the spy genre, he has even produced a James Bond novel. In Sweet Caress he however returns to a formula he likes: the narration of his subject’s life against the back drop of seismic twentieth century events. It worked particularly well in Any Human Heart.
The subject this time is the photographer Amory Clay. He uses the device of her photographs to add credence to her story. Sadly in my Kindle these were rather grainy and blurred but it’s an interesting idea. Her life is a full one. She is raised in West Sussex at the turn of the last century but soon goes to London where she works for her uncle a society photographer, travels to the Weimar Republic where she photographs a brothel, then onto New York working for a magazine, next the Highlands and her last big assignment, Vietnam. Aside from chronicling her adventures, amorous and photographic, she keeps a journal late in life in her final resting place, a cottage on a Scottish Isle.
Unlike Any Human Heart the events seem to dwarf rather rather than shape her, giving the novel an episodic quality. The book is always entertaining but her own musings on life are rather trite. In brief the sum is less than the total of the parts.