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Waiting for Sunrise Hardcover – February 1, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


William Boyd is one of our most cherished writers ... Waiting for Sunrise is as much A Dance to the Music of Time as Any Human Heart, a giddy burlesque where characters, particularly figures of erotic obsession, vanish only to reappear unexpectedly ... It's 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. For me at least this is the literary event of the year The Times There are few more reliable literary pleasures than a Boyd novel. Over three decades he has established himself as one of Britain's most popular and highly regarded novelists ... He is a novelist who writes intelligent books about plausible and fully rounded characters, brimming with challenging ideas and themes. Above all, he is a storyteller nonpareil -- Mick Brown Telegraph Boyd guides the reader with a master's hand. It's ages since I read a novel that offers such breathlessly readable narrative enjoyment, such page-by-page storytelling confidence and solidity. Waiting for Sunrise is a homage to thriller writers, spy novels and crime detection stories and films from a hundred years ago, stretching from Sherlock Holmes, via Buchan and Greene, to Hitchcock Independent An intricately plotted world of spies, lies and the double cross ... a coming of age story about an individual's self enlightenment, as much as a sui generis thriller. Waiting for Sunrise proves that rarest of beasts: a tantalisingly experimental work that is also an immensely satisfying page turner Sunday Telegraph Boyd's run of first-rate literary thrillers continues with this nerve-jangling First World War-era tale -- Benjamin Evans Sunday Telegraph Boyd's sophisticated espionage thriller succeeds in capturing the eve-of-war atmosphere of 1913 Vienna Observer

From the Back Cover

Vienna, 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor in town seeking psychotherapy for a troubling ailment of a sexual nature, becomes caught up in a feverish affair with a beautiful, enigmatic woman. When she goes to the police to press charges of rape, however, he is stunned, and his few months of passion come to an abrupt end. Only a carefully plotted escape—with the help of two mysterious British diplomats—saves him from trial.

But the frenzied getaway sets off a chain of events that steadily dismantles Lysander's life as he knows it. He returns to a London on the cusp of war, hoping to win back his onetime fiancée and banish from memory his traumatic ordeals abroad, but Vienna haunts him at every turn. The men who helped coordinate his escape recruit him to carry out the brutal murder of a complete stranger. His lover from Vienna shows up nonchalantly at a party, ready to resume their liaison. Unable to live an ordinary existence, he is plunged into the dangerous theater of wartime intelligence—a world of sex, scandal, and spies, where lines of truth and deception blur with every waking day. Lysander must now discover the key to a secret code that is threatening Britain's safety, and use all his skills to keep this murky world of suspicion and betrayal from invading every corner of his life.

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.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury UK; First Edition edition (February 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408817748
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408817742
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,754,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brendan Moody VINE VOICE on January 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Certain moments in history seem laden with a sense of the loss of innocence, a transition from certainty and security to confusion, bafflement, and loss. It's only an illusion-- the world has always been the vast and inscrutable place it is now-- but the illusion is a powerful one, and allows for great historical fiction in which individual and national coming-of-age are combined, creating something that's both grounded in a particular time and place and insightful about timeless issues and themes. Such a novel is William Boyd's Waiting for Sunrise, in which Europe prior to and during World War I provides the background for one man's journey into the darkness of the unknown and the unknowable.

That man is Lysander Rief, an English actor who in 1913 travels to Vienna in the hope that the new-fangled science of psychoanalysis will help him resolve an embarrassing problem. Even as he makes progress on that front, a chance meeting with one of his analyst's fellow patients begins a sequence of events that creates the potential for much worse problems. Revealing too much more about the plot would spoil the pleasure of its development; suffice it to say that Waiting for Sunrise turns out to be something of an espionage novel, though one that's as much about the psychology of its protagonist and his times as it is about discovering spies and defusing bombs.

As the novel begins Lysander is a typical young man from a comfortable family background: good-natured and with a basic moral sense, but willing to pursue pleasure where he can find it, and largely ignorant of the complexities that can develop from seemingly-simple situations like his trip to Vienna.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Once again, William Boyd has written an absolutely terrific novel. The story begins in 1913 in Vienna, where a young English actor, Lysander Reif, is seeking psychoanalysis to cure a sexual problem. Reif encounters a troubled young woman and a member of the British consulate in the analyst's waiting room--both of whom will play important roles in his future. Reif immerses himself in Viennese culture and brushes up on his language skills as he undergoes the talking cure. Soon the troubled young woman, Hettie Bull, will embroil Reif in a torrid affair that ends in tears when he is arrested and charged with raping her. Reif's contact at the British embassy comes to his rescue and assists him in escaping from Austria. Reif's debt to the British government will be paid in full when he is ordered to use his acting and language skills to spy during World War I.

In Waiting for Sunrise, Boyd demonstrates his incredible skills at writing a strong narrative. The plot is intricate without being difficult to follow because of the writer's excellent way with prose. Boyd shows his inventiveness by having Reif be an actor. Who better to cast in the role of a spy than a man who makes a living posing as another person?

In addition to a fast-paced, engrossing narrative, Boyd creates memorable characters and atmosphere. The novel works on many levels. It is a thrilling spy adventure and great historical fiction (Vienna just before the war, the battlefields of France, and the War Office in London). But Boyd takes the reader into deeper philosophical waters as we consider who can be trusted and, indeed, what is real. This is a fabulous book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This my first acquaintance with the work of William Boyd. I grabbed it from the Amazon Vine program based on the blurb about psychotherapy in Vienna during the time of Freud and the promise of sex, scandal and spies. Psychotherapy provides only a minor role but a recurring theme in the novel. Boyd does deliver a complicated tale of espionage during World War I, although don't expect a James Bond/Ian Fleming style thriller. `Waiting for Sunrise' is more of a Le Carré story featuring amateur spy hunter Lysander Rief.

`Waiting for Sunrise' is the story of two years in the life of Lysander Rief, 1913 through 1915. So much occurs during these years that it feels more like half a lifetime. Lysander lives in England but his saga begins in Vienna at age 27. We accompany him to Italy, the battlefields of France during the Great War to Geneva and back to England. The characters introduced in the first 12 pages of the book form the structure upon which the remainder of the novel evolves.

Reviews mention deception as a theme. The obvious application of deception is that Lysander is an actor whose father was a famous actor. Using his acting skills, Lysander becomes a government agent charged with uncovering a traitor. A more subtle application of deception is the use of lies and ruses to evade consequences by characters lacking the ability to accept responsibility for their actions.

Following this theme is the concept of "Parallelism" espoused by Lysander's psychotherapist. This "therapy" requires Lysander to use "fonction fabulatrice" to deal with problematic events by imagining new realities. In other words, make up new facts to deal with difficult occurrences.

Parallelism enables one to avoid responsibility, guilt or blame.
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