Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)


Article excerpt

BOOK OF THE WEEK Sweet Caress: The Many Lives Of Amory Clay by William Boyd Publisher: Bloomsbury Price: Hardback PS18.99, ebook PS7.79 THE publication of William Boyd's latest novel, Sweet Caress, has been eagerly awaited. And this latest tome only serves to justify his already impressive reputation. It is, however, largely without fanfare.

What we have is something quieter, less imposing but nonetheless spectacular.

Boyd's protagonist, a little-known female photographer, is in many ways a rather unexceptional and prosaic figure, although inspiring and pioneering in her own unassuming way.

Boyd's skill is to take what is essentially a full - yet not necessarily extraordinary - life, and make it into extraordinary fiction. Fiction that instinctively pulls you in and keeps you there without having recourse to ostentation or largesse.

The life of Amory Clay, however, is not without interest. It takes in late Twenties London, early Thirties Berlin and New York, Europe in the Second World War and the Vietnam War, albeit always somewhat on the peripheries. And supplementing it all is a collection of anonymous found photos that give the novel a quasi-autobiographical feel and add to the authenticity of the fiction.

To borrow from Amory's favourite parlour game and sum this novel up in four adjectives, it would quite simply be: panoramic, evocative, captivating and accomplished. Rating .....

FICTION Purity by Jonathan Franzen Publisher: 4th Estate Price: Hardback PS20, ebook PS12.99 JONATHAN FRANZEN'S latest novel arrives with great expectations after a relatively moderate five-year wait.

Putative heroine Pip Tyler is searching for her father's identity, drawing her into the orbit of the Wikileaks-esque 'Sunlight Foundation' and its charismatic founder.

Franzen's recent successes owe much to a warm, autobiographical humanity, combined with a deceptive lightness of touch amidst weighty issues and rigorous prose.

Here, however, that deftness is only intermittently present, his focus so heavily on the what, that he neglects the how.

Usual non-linear ironies are present and correct, some less foreshadowed than others, but the parallel families depicted are repetitious.

There are hints that discussing 21st century tech culture takes the author uncomfortably far from his comfort zone, and despite occasional highlights, any lingering hopes are quashed by a final, clumsy lurch into psychological thriller.

Rating .....

The Book Of Memory by Petina Gappah Publisher: Faber & Faber Price: Hardback PS14.99, ebook PS7.91 MEMORY is an African Albino girl born into a poor township in 1970s Zimbabwe.

She is committed to Chikurubi Prison, convicted of murdering her adopted father, to whom she was sold by her parents when she was only nine years old. …

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