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Any Human Heart
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on December 9, 2016
Logan Mountstuart's life story is very compelling both from the historical and personal view points. The inclusion of the Duke and Duchess/Oakes affair, Ian Fleming et al makes the yarn totally believable and almost a non fiction work all the while knowing it isn't.
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.
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on July 11, 2017
Anyone who rates a book by means of five stars obviously likes it. Mr. Boyd is enjoyable to read, but this life story is particularly compelling ,starting in Uraguay and finishing in southern France. His time in Switzerland in custody is never really explained,though darkly ascribed to Royal wickedness. His rabbit-like tendencies are described and admitted, but there is no apology for same. Well, you don.t tend to regret something that is so enjoyable, do you? As a pensioner refugee from Britain, I live an unstimulating but comfortable existence in a European country with a decent health service and low prices. LMS lived in Britain on his UK pension and had a tough time until he moved to southern France, where he ended his eventful life.
If ever a book gave cause too contemplate one's own life, it's this one.
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on July 17, 2017
I really enjoyed reading the diary of Logan Mountstuart, a most fascinating character created by this author, and one who retains a Zelig-type quality to his very full life. Throughout his action-paced, tragic life he rubs shoulders with literary glitterati and art-world denizens such as Pablo Picasso, Virginia Woolf, Frank O'Hara, Nat Tate, and Ernest Hemingway, suffers a 2-year prison sentence in Switzerland during World War 2 where he's essentially a spy, runs an art gallery in New York, marries several times and loses both of his children at young ages, sides with a radical political group, and writes several books, all while living in London, Algeria, Manhattan, and rural France. I honestly felt as though I was reading a true diary, one that kept my rapt attention at all times. Kudos to author William Boyd for pulling this off!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon March 17, 2011
Any Human Heart is a big novel by William Boyd. Boyd is one of the most gifted English novelists of the present day. The novel has recently been seen as a PBS mini-series. it is a delightful book filled with action with big characters and colorful scenes on several continents.
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.
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on October 26, 2016
I loved this book . I thought the voice of Logan Mountstuart was pitch perfect and he was a very real person . The story was all too believable altho a few incidents were far fetched but as we know real life can be stranger than fiction. This was a riveting life story reliving the many ups and downs of the twentieth Century in europe especially England and the U S with an individual life story with a very human voice
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A few pages into "Any Human Heart" and I was thinking, why are British writers so good at this particular form of the novel? As good as this novel is, it certainly possesses strong echos of Waugh's "Sword of Honor", Le Carre's "Secret Pilgrim", Barnes' "Sense of of an Ending? and even Hollinghurst's "The Stranger's Child" (and probably scores of other excellent journal-cum-novel writing.)

I thought the great strength of this book by William Boyd was the sweep of time that the protagonist Logan Mountstuart is writing about and the totally audacious inclusion of fictional encounters with some of the most notorious figures of the 20th Century. Interestingly, their interactions with Mountstuart do no particular honor to either character and, in fact, leave the reader with the general impression that very few of these famous figures were very trustworthy, intelligent or worthy of taking out for a drink. As to Mountstuart himself, he is not portrayed as remotely admirable, proactive or honorable through much of the book. He is most often driven by his libido and/or love of beauty and comfort, which leads him into myriad personal betrayals and scrapes. These eventually reduce him to a more honorable life of poverty and basics. In his last years, he is allowed by the author to become a happier more introspective person who finally tries to do the right thing for others at some cost to himself.

If the protagonist's life is often dodgy, full of bad choices and occasionally downright sleazey, author Boyd cleverly brings everything back from the brink for a wonderful ending, leaving the reader with much to ponder about the lead character and much to admire in the way he has woven his way through 85 years of history in what he calls, "the yo-yo of a life".
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on September 6, 2010
Bravo. Any Human Heart tells the life story in diary form of novelist and literary critic Logan Mountstuart (1906-1991), a likable and roguish hero. We live through his marriages, dalliances, literary success and frustrations, good decisions and bad, and his successes and failures. He is afforded good luck and bad (as he might put it). He meets an entertaining array of prominent 20th Century figures including Hemingway, Picasso, Evelyn Waugh, Frank O'Hara, Jackson Pollock, Virginia Wolff, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, James Joyce and others, which is tremendous fun (all of these figures are convincingly portrayed and none suffer through gratuitous cameos).

Mountstuart's life comes to include many genres -- spy, adventure, romance, marital drama, historical drama -- and what you get in the end is the mix of half-successes, failures, fantasies, longings, intrigues and relationships good and bad that comprise lives, and that in this case come together as quite a moving story. It was pleasant and enlightening to share 70 years with Mountstuart; when it's over, one misses his company. Mountstuart is not a romantic figure with grand, world-changing goals, but he has his set of standards and tries to uphold them over time. The credo he adopts in the Spanish civil War has two hates and three loves: hatred of injustice, hatred of privilege, love of life, love of humanity, love of beauty. He describes the spirit of the Cosmopolitans, a French school of pre-WWI poets about whom Mountstuart writes his third book, thusly: "They are all about romance, about life's excitement and adventure and its essential sadness and transience. They savour everything both fine and bittersweet that life has to offer - stoical in their hedonism." It is the spirit in which Mountstuart lives his life.

Boyd's literary style is elegant but not flashy, just right for the diary form. The evolving voice of the character at different ages is totally convincing, as is Boyd's evocation of a diverse set of places and times. As Mountstuart says, "You cannot live on caviar and foie gras every day: sometimes a plain dish of lentils is all the palate craves, even if one insists that the lentils come from Puy." Well said.

I loved it, read it quickly and now feel lucky to have found a great new (to me) author.
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on July 4, 2014
Charting the life of a man through seminal events of the 20th century and spanning Europe and America, this is a fascinating tale. Logan Mountstuart, the central figure is not in essence likeable but you grow to love him as he stumbles through his relationships with schoolfriends, lovers and family. The twists and turns of the story and the scrapes that he gets into are constantly entertaining. It is essentially a memoir of the older Mountstuart as he reflects on his life and the one true love that he had. He manages to brush shoulders with the greats of the century from Virginia Woolf to Picasso and it is a clever premise of the story to set the life of one man against all the key events of the century. There are some masterful pieces of writing as well as the entertaining plots.
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on January 29, 2014
Reading this book is like living one more life,different yet so fascinating. It is full of sweet false nostalgia for a world that existed only in our imagination and the media. We live it like peeping toms through the pages of the Hero's diary ,with a lot of name dropping and his principal preoccupation which is himself,like every successful writer.
We have the illusion that we see a real life unrolling together with the sunset of the British Empire,like a long video series on the 20th Century produced by the BBC and directed by Anthony Minghela.
Boyd is a greatly gifted writer not only for his imagination in the structure of his books,not only for his characters descriptions and nuanced situations with restrained humor but mostly for his masterly and elegant use of the English language.
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on January 23, 2016
For some reason, this book resonated with me. Partially this was because some of the locales were personally familiar to me. For example, my favorite hotel in London is Number Sixteen on Sumner Place, the locale of the mother's home, and I have family near Mystic Connecticut. But primarily, I think, the book's appeal to me was the depiction of Logan's life passage, from adolescence through old age. His experiences and perceptions rang universal to me--at least on a general basis they paralleled mine.
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