William Boyd is an author I love, but forget to read. That sounds contradictory, but it isn’t. A Good Man In Africa had such an effect on me that I feel like I know this author! (Of course I don’t!). (Note: the movie is good, too). (Note 2: I have re-read that book a few times and always think Prince William of Gloucster is somehow the Morgan!!! Probably because he was a diplomat in Nigeria for a while.) Probably since this book was published several months after my children joined my life I am just now getting to it. I hope to catch-up on more of his books as well.
Logan Mountstuart starts writing a diary at his lesser public (private) school in about 1920. He and his two best friends decide to shake things up by setting challenges for each other (no spoilers). This seems to be the theme of his life. Throughout the years of his adult life he often keeps a diary. The story, therefore, is told in chronological oder–something I like. I get tired of either constant jumps back-and-for-and-around in time or of the genre I think of as “Old lady tells her story to incredulous modern young person” which I’ve come to loathe. I liked that Logan’s story just goes forward.
There’s a royal tie-in that made it all even more interesting, even if it is an era that I know quite a lot about. During World War II, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were exhiled to the Bahamas, where the former King of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Ireland and it’s Empire was reduced to administering the few duties as his younger brother, George VI’s, representative on an even smaller island. The death of Harry Oakes is a big blot on the Duke’s record. His handling of the siutaion as as bad as Boyd makes it out to be in Logan’s diary.
Boyd makes Logan real. The emotions, the aches and pains, the love and lust–all are real. The last years in London left me saying “this is me in 20 years.” (Again, no spoilers). Let’s just say I’m glad “Bowser” isn’t a brand here. (Read the story) though we all have heard similar tales from that line of goods before.
I also had a fun personal moment when Logan’s story and the characters in one of my books were in the same place, class and time. I had a great time imagining them meeting at a dinner party or on the golf course.
My one complaint on the book is that Ian Fleming drops out of it after the war. I’d like to have seen him in it more after his great financial success with the James Bond books.
A Post Script: William Boyd was at school with Prince Charles and wrote a television play about the experience at fictionalized version of the school Charles called Colditz in Kilts.
This book was also made into a t.v. series shown on PBS Masterpiece. I apparently missed it as we’d just given up television the year it was broadcast! Just my luck.
Any Human Heart by William Boyd