William Boyd rarely disappoints. This epistolary novel pulls you into the intimate journals of Logan Mountstuart, born in Uruguay in the early 1900’s where his father was a corned beef baron. It ends in 1991 with Mountstuart’s death at age 85 in France.
In between, Mountstuart and family move to London and the adventures begin. I felt that my protagonist was somewhat of a Zelig figure, in and out of every major event in the 20th Century. But, isn’t that somewhat the point of writing a novel covering 85 years? Your main character gets to do interesting things: public school, Oxford (Jesus College, a third in history), a moderately successful writer, a bad husband and father, then a good husband and father, a spy in WWII, family lost in the Blitz, art dealer in New York, bad husband again, professor in Nigeria during the Biafrian war, penniless quasi-revolutionary in London, finally a peaceful death alone at his home in France.
There’s a marked contrast between his privileged youth and middle-age and his more enlightened older, destitute days. He learns to settle, to cope, to need friends, to be a friend and to be at peace.
Boyd is an excellent writer. Each of his books is a unique experience—well researched and a pleasure to read. Highly recommended if you want to lose yourself in the world of Logan Mountstuart for a week or so.