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Any Human Heart Hardcover – February 4, 2003
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Logan Gonzago Mountstuart, writer, was born in 1906, and died of a heart attack on October 5, 1991, aged 85. William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart is his disjointed autobiography, a massive tome chronicling "my personal rollercoaster"--or rather, "not so much a rollercoaster", but a yo-yo, "a jerking spinning toy in the hands of a maladroit child." From his early childhood in Montevideo, son of an English corned beef executive and his Uraguayan secretary, through his years at a Norfolk public school and Oxford, Mountstuart traces his haphazard development as a writer. Early and easy success is succeeded by a long half-century of mediocrity, disappointments and setbacks, both personal and professional, leading him to multiple failed marriages, internment, alcoholism and abject poverty.
Mountstuart's sorry tale is also the story of a British way of life in inexorable decline, as his journey takes in the Bloomsbury set, the General Strike, the Spanish Civil War, 1930s Americans in Paris, wartime espionage, New York avant garde art, even the Baader-Meinhof gang--all with a stellar supporting cast. The most sustained and best moment comes mid-book, as Mountstuart gets caught up in one of Britain's murkier wartime secrets, in the company of the here truly despicable Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Elsewhere author William Boyd occasionally misplaces his tongue too obviously in his cheek--the Wall Street Crash is trailed with truly crashing inelegance--but overall Any Human Heart is a witty, inventive and ultimately moving novel. Boyd succeeds in conjuring not only a compelling 20th century but also, in the hapless Logan Mountstuart, an anti-hero who achieves something approaching passive greatness. --Alan Stewart, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
Surely one of the most beguiling books of this season, this rich, sophisticated, often hilarious and disarming novel is the autobiography of a typical Englishman as told through his lifelong journal. Born to British parents in Uruguay in 1906, Logan Mountstuart attends an English prep school where he makes two friends who will be his touchstones for the next eight decades. The early entries in his journal, which record his sexual explorations and his budding ambitions, provide a clear picture of the snobbery and genteel brutality of the British social system. Logan is a decent chap, filled with a moral idealism that he will never lose, although his burning sense of justice will prove inconvenient in later years. He goes down from Oxford with a shameful Third, finds early success as a novelist, marries a rich woman he doesn't love, escapes to Spain to fight in the civil war and is about to embark on a happy existence with his second wife when WWII disrupts his and his generation's equilibrium. He's sent on a nave spying mission by British Naval Intelligence and imprisoned for two years. On his release, he finds that tragedy has struck his family. Logan's creativity is stunted, and he slides into alcoholism, chronic infidelity and loneliness. "I believe my generation was cursed by the war," Logan says, and this becomes the burden of the narrative. He resorts to journalism to earn a living, specializing in pieces about the emerging stars of the art world, whom he encounters-somewhat like Zelig-in social situations. Logan's picaresque journey through the 20th century never seems forced, however. His meetings with Picasso, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Hemingway and Ian Fleming are adroitly and credibly interposed into the junctures of his life. This flawed yet immensely appealing protagonist is one of Boyd's most distinctive creations, and his voice-articulate, introspective, urbane, stoically philosophical in the face of countless disappointments-engages the reader's empathy. Logan is a man who sees his bright future dissipate and his great love destroyed, and yet can look back with "a strange sense of pride" that he's "managed to live in every decade of this long benighted century." His unfulfilled life, with his valiant efforts to be morally responsible, to create and, finally, just to get by, is a universal story, told by a master of narrative. Boyd, back in top form, has crafted a novel at least as beautifully nuanced as A Good Man in Africa and Brazzaville Beach. Logan's journal entries are so candid and immediate it's difficult to believe he isn't real. And after 496 pages, it's hard to say good-bye.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
A comparable author was Noel Barber who had the same knowledgeable background and could weave historical facts in with a good fictitious read.
After having seen the TV series I was very keen to read the book and whilst some of the preambling was taken out of the production I have to say that the book and the series were excellent matches.
I just wish Logan had had a happier life and that he could have met someone that equaled his contentment and happiness with Freya and Stella - but life's not like that.
encountered genre. Though there are multiple emotional relationships in the life of Logan Mountstuart; widely differing careers, geographic switches from the UK to various European countries, and a particularly well-developed sojourn in Africa, every person, profession, and setting seems drawn directly from the writer's personal experience. Additional credibility comes from Mountstuart's meetings with actual figures of the 20th century, people whose names are never just dropped, but become an integral part of his life story.
The book begins with his adolescence at a typical English boarding school; an experience not remembered fondly but one that provides him with lifelong friends and major characters. Once acquainted, the reader is rewarded by also becoming an essential part of Mountstuart's life.
Though not Boyd's newest book, Any Human Heart will inspire admirers to read those that precede and follow this one; all as varied as the lifetime of Logan Montstuart.
If ever a book gave cause too contemplate one's own life, it's this one.
The hero of the book is Logan Gonzago Mountstuart. Mountstuart is born in Uruguay in 1906. His father is a corned beef merchant; his mother a South American beauty. Logan attends boarding school in England. He then matriculates at Oxford where he graduates with a degree in history. He becomes a writer achieving minor fame for his novels "The Mind's Imaginings"; "The Girl Factory"; "The Cosmopolitans" and "The Villa By the Lake."
His personal life is not without trauma and tragedy. He marries three times; loses his wife and daughter during World War II and fathers two children. He voices the belief that life is a mixture of good and bad luck. Though he is raised a Roman Catholic he ends us as an atheist. Mountstuart has a major drinking problem and is addicted to sexual exploits throughout his long and eventful life. His sport of choice is a good round of golf. He is both a hedonist and a hard worker.
The book is a purported "diary": kept by Mountstuart. He travels widely living for a time in France, Spain, Uruguay, England, New York and Africa. He meets such literary luminaries as Virginia Woolf, Jame Joyce, Ian Fleming, Ernest Hemingway and many others. He also becomes the manager of a New York art gallery and owns a signed sketch by Picasso.
The book is filled with intellectual chit-chat on books, music, art and politics. Mountstuart earns his living through publication of his novels, journalism and teaching English Literature in Africa.
One of the most fascinating parts of the novel is Logan's complicated relationship with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
There are many scenes set in the Bahamas when the Duke was the governor during WW II. Logan is imprisoned in Switzerland for two year during the war. He is suspected of being a German spy. Actually he is working as an agent for British Naval Intelligence. He dies in genteel poverty at his home near a French village. He has learned to accept life's challenges with aplomb and a measure of grace. The last scene is the book is written in beautifully memorable prose.
There is tragedy, laughter, wit and wonderful descriptions in this fictional diary. Author William Boyd has done an excellent job in drawing Logan as a realistic character who is a flawed human being. This is an excellent novel which you will long remember!
A book to be cherised by all lovers of good English prose and a story well told.