William Boyd The Blue Afternoon Reviews

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“A Review of William Boyd The Blue Afternoon - I have...”


written by degbert on 07/04/2008

A Review of William Boyd The Blue Afternoon - I have mentioned to many that I am a big fan of Boyd. I make no apology for this and how it might affect my judgment!
Boyd's choice of subject is somewhat opaque to the adventure seeker, and he's taken us to Congo, rural France, wartime Belgium, and now the turn-of-the-20th century Manila, but he never fails to deliver. His characters seem at first to be perhaps a little crass, a little self-absorbed; but your journey with them develops and you are absolutely engrossed in no time, and care deeply by journey's end. This is the skill of the story teller, and I fancy there isn't anyone consistently as good as Boyd. Le Carre employed devices in terms of the depth of characterization, especially of the lead, to superb effect ' " Boyd takes those tortured souls outside the world of espionage, and drops them in to a more accessible backdrop, quite brilliantly.
This time, with The Blue Afternoon, is no exception. Such seemingly challenging backdrops are brought to life with a deft touch, breeze of credibility and warmth of proximity that only Boyd can conjure. Ask me what I know about conditions in the Philippines in the late 1800's, or indeed the status of the race to be the first airborne powered manned flight, and you'd have me scratching. Boyd enjoyably informs and educates at the same time as he tells his tale. So the voyage is one of discovery for the reader equally as much as it is, on a more profound level, for the characters.
And the characters themselves. Again Boyd captures the human condition beautifully. In Carriscant, the first person, Boyd conveys the charming, troubled, precise, tempestuous spirit. A man in control of his life but an utter slave to his emotional destiny; the journey takes you to his point of closure at the end of a rich and yet ultimately unfulfilled life. Those drifting out of orbit are so wonderfully portrayed that at any given point you are unsure where the story might go; Kay's retrospective view, Pantaleon's passionate comradeship, and of course Delphine' I'll say no more about her specifically. But each supporting member is cleverly crafted, time is taken not only to bring them to life, but to let them live. And indeed die, when their time comes.
One minor niggle was I left having little or no appreciation of, or emotion about Paton Bobby, however. Perhaps the incongruous name, perhaps the brusque manner among such cognoscenti, perhaps the largely stereotypical bluster of the overworked, jaundiced, cynical crime-fighter. Whatever, this was the one missing link for me.
Elsewhere, it was a lavishly colourful, rich, utterly believable and heart-wrenchingly memorable tale, told by an expert. This is easily as enjoyable as Any Human Heart, and shows the breadth of this man's talent.

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