Any Human Heart

  • by William Boyd
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 15 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Best-selling author William Boyd—the novelist who has been called a “master storyteller” (Chicago Tribune) and “a gutsy writer who is good company to keep” (Time)—here gives us his most entertaining, sly, and compelling novel to date. The novel evokes the tumult, events, and iconic faces of our time as it tells the story of Logan Mountstuart—writer, lover, and man of the world—through his intimate journals. It covers the “riotous and disorganized reality” of Mountstuart’s 85 years in all their extraordinary, tragic, and humorous aspects.
The journals begin with his boyhood in Montevideo, Uruguay, then move to Oxford in the 1920s and the publication of his first book, then on to Paris where he meets Joyce, Picasso, Hemingway, et al., and to Spain, where he covers the civil war. During World War II, we see him as an agent for naval intelligence, becoming embroiled in a murder scandal that involves the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The postwar years bring him to New York as an art dealer in the world of 1950s abstract expressionism, then on to West Africa, to London where he has a run-in with the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and, finally, to France where, in his old age, he acquires a measure of hard-won serenity.
This is a moving, ambitious, and richly conceived novel that summons up the heroics and follies of 20th-century life.

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What the Critics Say

“Boyd does such a nimble job of ventriloquism in the book’s opening sections that we find ourselves forgetting that Mountstuart is a fictional character.” (New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

very satisfying story-telling

I'm tempted to call this novel "Forrest Gump Dances to the Music of Time" - but that would trivialize it. It's a more contemporary Evelyn Waugh/Anthony Powell -esque "20th century as lived through an (English) individual." The protagonist even meets Powell and Waugh in the course of his travels around and about the 20th century. It's not as grand as Powell, but then much of Powell dances over my head.

Our hero is Forrest Gump-like in that he causually crosses paths with an incredible number of historical figures -- but the story is so well spun, this never seems incredible when you're inside it. Of course, our hero is a literary figure, much like Powell's and Waugh's protagonists, but he's more accessible, and where Waugh would accentuate the satire and Powell make the prose dance, Boyd leans toward story and character and oblique historical backdrop.

You'll either love the novel or hate it. If the thought of "listening in" on a journal that skips a year here and there to land our Brit on the fringe of a revolution or other pivotal event turns you off, with discursions for how he's feeling about his current love and decor, skip it. I listened to it almost nonstop for two evenings and loved it.
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- connie "Narrative makes the world go round."

The Thrilling Life of the 20th Century Man

Logan Mountstuart's story, which spans every decade of the 20th century (born 1906, died 1991), is told through his personal journals, which he has kept off and on at various stages of his life. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, he moved to England with his English father and Uruguayan mother as a young boy. The earliest pages of the journals having been lost, the story picks up sometime in LMS's teens, when he made a pact with his two best friends, which in one case, had lasting consequences. He decided to become a writer and published a successful novel after attending Oxford university, and his early success led him to meet some of the leading figures of the arts and letters, making for plenty of namedropping, from Hemingway (encountered in Spain during the civil war), to Picasso (whom he interviewed for an article), to Evelyn Waugh (who kissed him on the mouth), to name just a few. But his acquaintance with the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson may have had dramatic consequences, as he believed the duke, with whom he had fallen out of favour, later betrayed him during WWII, leading to two years of internment in Switzerland after a failed intelligence mission. Because of the nature of the documents through which we get to know LMS, we are presented with many facets of his life, from intimate details about his loves and lovers to little anecdotes and comments about a wide variety of topics and people.

LMS certainly lived an exciting life, but this book having been highly recommended to me by various people, and having read two of Boyd's books before, I had high expectations, and while I thought the story was very good for the most part, I wasn't so impressed with all the cameos and appearances of famous people in his life and kept wanting more, which is why the novel suddenly became absolutely fascinating to me when, as an old man, LMS hit hard times and had to go to extreme measures to eke out a living and fight to hang on to his dignity and sense of self, even as he found himself unable to write the novel that might have put him back on the map. By then end I was completely won over and quite fascinated by this monumental construction, which is one I'll have to find time to read again in future, as I'm sure I'll enjoy it very differently now that the whole picture has been revealed. Strongly recommended.
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- Ilana "Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-09-2011
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.