“Any Human Heart” by William Boyd (Vintage International, 2004)

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.