Quite a wait

13 10 2012

Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd

Vienna, 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor, walks through the city to his first appointment with eminent psychiatrist, Dr Bensimon. Sitting in the waiting room he is anxiously pondering the particularly intimate nature of his neurosis when a young woman enters. Lysander is immediately drawn to her strange, hazel eyes and her unusual, intense beauty. Her name is Hettie Bull. Their subsequent affair is both passionate and particularly destructive. Moving from Vienna to London’s West End, from the battlefields of France to hotel rooms in Geneva, Waiting for Sunrise is a feverish and mesmerising journey into the human psyche, a beautifully observed portrait of wartime Europe, a plot-twisting thriller and a literary tour de force.

Plenty of twists and turns and interesting wartime settings. Rief, the lead character, is not terribly engaging though and I did really find it difficult to feel a huge amount of sympathy for him. I reckon about half of the books I read are described by someone somewhere as a “literary tour de force” but few genuinely deserve the accolade. This one, well-written as it is, unfortunately doesn’t quite scale those heights either.

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