Any Human Heart

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Penguin: paperback published 2007: 490 pages

Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary, but Logan Mountstuart’s – lived from the beginning to the end of the twentieth century – contains more than its fair share of both. As a writer who finds inspiration in Paris and London, as a spy betrayed in the war and as an art-dealer in ’60s New York, Logan mixes with the movers and shakers of his times. But as a son, friend, lover and husband, he makes the same mistakes we all do in our search for happiness. Here, then, is the story of a life lived to the full – and a journey deep into a very human heart.

~*~

I’ve never read any Boyd before, though I’ve been recommended it a thousand times. Any Human Heart is apparently one of his best, and I can believe it. This is a fictional journal of the life and experiences of one Logan Mountstuart – a flawed, selfish but ultimately loveable human being, who lives through some of the greatest moments in history the world has ever seen. The writing is lovely – poetic and simple and very expressive. You love and hate Logan in equal measure – both sympathising and disagreeing with him at the right points. I also love the fact that it’s written as if it’s a real account – with footnotes and historical references. There are certain points when my attention starts to waver – it moves too slowly, or Logan moans about something once too often, but there are also points when you are completely sucked in to the story, and are willing yourself to read faster just to find out more. It’s something I would recommend to others to read, because it has everything you need for a good story, and more. Just because Logan isn’t the most likeable of characters sometimes, doesn’t mean you don’t want to read what he has to say – because a lot of the time, he’s got some pretty interesting stuff to tell.

World War II, 1960s New York, Nigeria during the Biafran war, JFK being shot, affairs and deaths and brief interruptions of fame, rubbing shoulders with the good, the bad, and the beautiful… meeting royalty even. Logan lives throughout every decade of the 20th Century, and experiences the delights of each, sharing that with the reader in unadorned prose of self-reflection and philosophical recognition. William Sutcliffe, for the Independent on Sunday, calls it “Wise, profound and moving.” according to the jacket quote, and actually, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Though I could have had done with hearing less from the cantankerous, lecherous old man Logan becomes.

Rating: 7/10

Next Book: This was another bargain from the work bookshop – Guerillas by V.S. Naipaul. I’ve always felt I ought to have read Naipaul, seeing as he is one of the most influential authors of our time (hence winning the Nobel Prize in Literature). What better time to start reading Naipaul than when I can get a stack of his books on the cheap!?

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