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Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel Paperback – January 2, 2013
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“It’s ages since I read a novel that offers such breathlessly readable narrative enjoyment, such page-by-page storytelling confidence and solidity. Boyd has a positive genius for pace and description.” (The Independent)
“Always a smooth and expert storyteller, Boyd effortlessly combines historical detail with a sexy, galloping narrative that proves irresistible.” (People (4 stars))
“Boyd retrofits a genre full of familiar devices and character types with finer textures and deeper psychology than it typically boasts. . . . Waiting for Sunrise manages to conjure an atmosphere of genuine disorientation that most spy novels gesture toward and few, if any, attain.” (Laura Miller, Salon)
“Boyd is a born story teller whose clear, taut prose never gets in the way of his characters and their unpredictable fates.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Thoroughly entertaining. . . . Waiting for Sunrise has the pace of a spy thriller, with code-cracking and double-crossing aplenty.” (The New Yorker)
“Sex, psychiatry and Vienna on the eve of World War I - those are promising ingredients for a novel. And William Boyd makes the most of them. . . . Boyd’s narrative moves briskly, and his local color is deftly done.” (The Seattle Times)
“As ever with Boyd there is an effortlessness to the prose and a piercing acuity to the period detail and evocation of place, along with thrilling set pieces. . . .[This book] proves that rarest of beasts: a tantalizingly experimental work that is also an immensely satisfying page-turner.” (The Telegraph)
“This is the sort of novel you finish, then begin again to revisit your favourite bits. . . . More than anything Waiting for Sunrise is a gleeful celebration of storytelling -- sly, clever, frequently hilarious, always involving. . . . This is the literary event of the year.” (The Times (UK))
“A page-turner. . . . A thinking person’s thriller.” (Good Housekeeping)
“Waiting for Sunrise retains a consistent intrigue and a splendidly intricate plot. . . . The denouement plays out with characteristic suspense and masterful design. . . . [Boyd has] a truly remarkable imagination.” (The Huffington Post)
From the Back Cover
Vienna, 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor in town seeking psychotherapy, is caught up in a feverish affair with a beautiful, enigmatic woman—until she goes to the police to press charges of rape. Only a frenzied getaway plotted by two mysterious British diplomats saves him from trial. But after Lysander returns to a London on the cusp of war, the traumatic ordeal haunts him at every turn. The men who coordinated his escape recruit him to carry out a brutal murder. His lover shows up at a party, ready to resume their liaison. Suddenly plunged into the dangerous theater of wartime intelligence—a murky world of sex, scandal, and spies—Lysander must unravel a secret that threatens Britain's safety.
Moving from Vienna to London's West End, from the battlefields of France to hotel rooms in Geneva, Waiting for Sunrise is a mesmerizing journey into the human psyche, a beautifully observed portrait of wartime Europe, a plot-twisting thriller, and a literary tour de force.
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Like all of Boyd’s novels “Sunrise” has a multiplicity of sub-plots from a psychosexual problem that takes our hero to Vienna for treatment with no-one less than Freud, to a sexual cure curtesy of one Hettie Bull, to working as a translator in a wartime internment camp, to taking on the identity of a Swiss railway engineer in the hunt for the traitor. There is much more. All very William Boyd.
Reading the novel we travel in London, Vienna and France, with a complex cast of characters in each of these locations. Along the way we explore psychiatry, espionage, and love. Rief’s experiences remind us that the human mind is endlessly baffling, complex and irrational. Boyd is an expert at developing a network of pacy and well-written plots.
If you are regular reader of William Boyd novels you won’t be disappointed with this one. If you haven’t read Boyd do yourself a favour. You don’t know what you are missing.
Was the story in the book a true one, or one created by the protagonist as some kind of alternate reality resulting from Rief's practice of "parallelism" and his use of the hallucination-inducing sleeping medicine? Who was really behind Andromeda? Was the code key for deciphering Andromeda's messages a pure coincidence, or somehow related to Rief? What exactly did Rief do to precipitate the final meeting, and who did he expect to show up? What was Hettie Bull's real role? Honestly I was very confused...
Characterization is central to 'Waiting For Sunrise' (as it is in every Boyd novel.) Lysander Rief comes on the scene as a handsome man in his later twenties. Unevenly educated since his actor-father moved the family from one theater to another, he becomes an actor and furthers his education through preparing for his theatrical roles. Readers are treated to a bit of the Theatrical Life in Britain through this thread of the story. So often playing someone else, Lysander is somewhat late in coming to a mature self-knowledge; most explicitly about sexual matters. He seeks to remedy some of this by traveling to Pre-WWI Vienna for a consultation with a Freudian-influenced psychoanalist--Dr. Bensimon. Vicariously we enter into some of the world of the new psychoanalysis of that day, including a treatment methodology of 'Parallelism'--burying the unpleasant facts from the past by creating a detailed alternate reality. There is serious food for philosophical thought in that plot thread. From that beginning, we are treated to more experience of deception--sneaky adultery, shaky self-deception and the duplicity of spying, even in the cause of one's country. Lysander becomes a counterspy, ferreting out a 'rat' in the British War Machine...but working without any training other than his acting ability. He takes personal risks that trained agents would have avoided in a somewhat naive search for facts. At the end of this novel I believe Boyd wants us to ask ourselves if Lysander really did get to the true bottom of the deception...or if any deception--by ourselves or others--can ever be completely laid to rest. I put the book aside after finishing reading but my thinking kept working on, much like the nagging itch left by many modern short-story writers. If you are that kind of reader, I believe you will LIKE 'Waiting For Sunrise.'
I would give this 3.5 stars. The writing is very descriptive and engaging. But I think the actual plot is only decent. The side characters that make up the story weren't fully explained. There are a lot of hints of possible conspiracies, but as a reader you are never sure which ones to take seriously. This made for an unexplained story in my book. Maybe that's what reviewers chalk up to the psychological aspect of the story, but to me it just made it feel half-thought out at times.