William Boyd on the telly. It might be one of those 'read the book' moments.

by Ian Thompson

William Boyd
The first of a four part series of William Boyd’s novel ‘Any Human Heart’ started tonight. I’m in a book club with five other blokes and we read the book a couple of summers ago. Having done a book a month for about five years, many now stare at me from the bookshelves and I struggle remember anything meaningful about them, although I invariably remember how they made me feel.

Everything about this book is still clear as crystal though – even how we chose it. We were having our annual Christmas round-up of the year and we asked the waitress for a recommendation – this book was it.

I’ve no intention of revealing any plot points for anybody who’s keen to follow the series, I simply want to recommend the book. And although I can’t claim it sits alongside some of the literary landmarks of the book club, I loved it from start to finish. When I look at this one on the bookshelves, I see that it’s falling to bits because it’s been round so many people since I read it.

However, my view wasn’t shared by everyone in the book club. We’re a pretty exacting lot and we unconsciously take it in turns to be intellectual fascists in the face of page-turners like this. It was obviously not my turn that month because I scored it high and wittered on about it for ages. The story is written as an autobiography and, stupid as I am, a good way into the book I thought it really was. William’ Boyd is no stranger to this kind of technique. The book he wrote immediately before this one was called ‘Nat Tate: American Artist, 1928-1960’, and it was a fake biography of a fictional Abstract Expressionist. The whole enterprise fooled many people who should have known better, especially after a lavish New York launch with excerpts read by David Bowie (who was in on the gag). All this of course long before Banksy’s ‘Exit through the gift shop’ which plays an almost identical joke on the Art world.

Some of my book club collegues were tough on the book – ‘history light’ and ‘airport literature’ were both levelled. And then, this very week, and old friend of mine and an avid reader had a go at the book and indeed, William Boyd. So there’s every chance I could be wrong. But I think the book is a great read and that Boyd is a superb writer.

So, however the TV series pans out, I’d say give the book a go. Logan Mountstuart’s story will keep you spellbound and in the end, will melt your heart.


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