It is Amory's photographer uncle, Greville, who gives her a camera and some rudimentary lessons in photography and unleashes a passion that will irrevocably shape her future.
Her search for life, love and artistic expression will take her to the demimonde of Berlin of the late '20s, to New York of the '30s, to the Blackshirt riots in London and to France in the Second World War, where she becomes one of the first women war photographers.
©2015 William Boyd (P)2015 W F Howes Ltd
"Serious, provocative, intelligent, Boyd's writing is endlessly open to ideas." (Daily Telegraph)
"His eccentric wit and restless intelligence exert a powerful appeal." (New York Times)
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"you feel life's sweet caress"
“How ever long you stay on this small planet last, and whatever happens during it, the most important thing is that - from time to time - you feel life’s sweet caress.” Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau
This book starts with this advice and takes the last line as the name of the book, the author is fictional he is also a lover of Amory Clay who is also fictional, although if you found this book and read it you no doubt think that you were reading a memoir a very excellent memoir. this is a creation of the author that even includes photos by Amory. The first photo in the book one of her is a found picture that was given to William Boyd by Christian House, who wrote of the picture: “I picked her up at a bus stop in Dulwich. She was lost, dirty and lying at my feet.
As a found photograph, she was a catch. The tiny, frayed and faded print say sorry-looking in the gutter.”
But this life, and all its details become real and impossible to disbelieve, every character feels like it has walked this earth, every gesture is and infusion of life and meaning.
This is a work that seems more impossible as a creation of fiction than as a true account of someone's life.
A Beautifully written novel, of an unlikely heroine, that loved and was loved, cried and felt sadness like all of us, and touched me like a sweet caress.
The narrator of this story was excellent, with a very distinctive tonalities and inflexions in her delivery of this novel. She created distinct voices for Amory at different stages of her life, making the time shifts more evident.
"I think it is the narrator...."
Yes and No. I have a feeling that the story is good, and I am a great admirer of William Boyd. But the narration was about the most annoying performance I have ever experienced. I pushed on to the end, in respect to Mr Boyd, and hoping something would change. But no, every time I switched it on, SO wishing to enjoy it - I just cringed at the reading.
Without doubt, the horrible reading. She made the character of Amory so enormously annoying, shallow and unlikeable. She had this peculiar way of ending every sentence with this sort of 'cute' and usually completely inappropriate impression that she has a broad smile on her face and a stifled giggle. Most bizarre. It seemed also a very light story line - but again, it is so hard to separate it from the narrator who made it all sound so flippant.
Possibly ANYONE else would have been better. But to be more helpful - I thought Barbara Flynn (who read an abridged version on BBC Radio 4) was very good - and it was hearing some of that broadcast that made me want to hear the whole book on Audible.
No, I am sorry - I didn't think so. It may well be worth reading - but it is too late now for me to find out!
I think I've said plenty! - and I am aware that I may be in the minority as other reviews are so good! Therefore - to the person who is considering it - you may find it wonderful!
I read and enjoy everything by William Boyd and found "Any Human Heart" such a rewarding audiobook that I listened twice.
I feel rather unkind taking such a dislike to the voice of this narrator. Her reading is very animated and this seems appropriate in the beginning as the voice of a school girl.Although I find the story quite interesting, I keep stopping because Jilly Bond has the kind of voice that becomes very tiresome. It is a voice produced from a tight throat with an affected prissy quality. Every character she evokes seems stagey . The men don't convince and I find many female narrators excel at this. I think I can't go on. There are six hours of the book to go but despite the quality of the writing I have started to lose the desire to hear any more of Amory Clay. Perhaps William Boyd intended to create an unsympathetic central character but I think I would have felt differently if I had read the book. Audio books are wonderful until this happens. Maybe the narrator has captured Amory as Boyd intended but something in the story fails to engage and I am no longer interested in the outcome.
A fascinating, beautifully written story by an excellent author. I have read many of Mr Boyd's works and this is as good as any of them and perhaps my favourite.
"Lovely, engaging and entertaining story"
I have long been a great fan of William Boyd's novels. They have strong narratives, believable characters and a moral dimension while at the same time being entertaining to read. The are what English literature used to be before it became too 'meaningful' and clever for its own good.
Sweet Caress is a truly engaging story well written and well read. It follows the life of a middle class English woman from her school days to her old age and eventual death. She is a marginal participant in some of of the great events of the 20th century but never a main player. So the story occurs on both a small and a large scale. It is not in the end about events but about one person living her life with honesty, passion and love.
"A warm companion for Any Human Heart"
William Boyd is an outstanding storyteller who has mastered the fictional autobiography illustrating history with the wonderful "Any Human Heart". This book explores the same rich possibilities of that form, through an entirely believable and attractive, if eccentric, voice.
Amory Clay (he loves these strange names for leading characters) tells her story as she passes some of the key milestones of the twentieth century.
We start at school and the impact of the "Great War" on mental health of the survivors, go through the London Society in the Twenties to decadent Berlin narrowly missing Christopher Isherwood, then back to London for the rough end of the Black Shirts, through the war on both sides of the Atlantic and on to Vietnam and beyond.
I understand that the book includes some facsimiles of the photographs the central character takes on the way which is an interesting dimension missing from the Audible edition.
The performance is critical to a book of this sort where the psychology of the central voice is the point of the book, in this case it is faultless and I am sure adds a dimension of its own which perhaps compensates for the absence of the photos.
One great game introduced to Amory by her Uncle is to epitomise any character in just four adjectives, sounds like a creative writing exercise but let me try to do it for the whole book...Compelling, Unsettling, Insightful, Funny.
If you liked "Any Human Heart" you will find this a satisfying companion but it very much stands on its own merits as a clever and compassionate masterpiece.
"An absorbing fictitious autobiography"
I’ve enjoyed a number of William Boyd’s novels including Any Human Heart which this novel closely resembles in that an elderly person looks back over their life in the 20th Century.
I had to listen to the first two chapters a couple of times to get into the novel but after that I was hooked by this fictitious ‘autobiography’. It seems like the memoirs of a real person.
Amory Clay, the character whose life we follow, certainly has had an eventful life. Her childhood shaped by the damage done to her father’s mental state by the First World War and her marriage by her husband’s bad experiences in the Second WW. She’s not a wholly sympathetic character but still one wants to know how things turn out for her and her life is certainly a rollercoaster of triumphs and disasters. The pleasures and pains of her relationships are played ou against the backdrop of world events
Though well-written and compelling throughout the novel did irritate at times with some inaccurate medical details and more references to cigarettes and smoking that I ever come across in a novel. The book would be many pages shorter if the hundreds of smoking events had been pruned. This surfeit of references smacks of a smoker’s juvenile two-fingers to the smoking bans.
The narrator is outstanding. She had such a range of voices that brought children, men, women young and old alive. it was particularly helpful that she can mimic the effect of ageing on a person’s voice as the narrative often switches between a young and old Amory.
"Oranges will never taste quite the same again"
In floods of tears, first from sadness then relief. I don't think oranges will taste quite the same again, and for that I thank William Boyd.
(And for reminding me that life is a long list of complications and mistakes to be embraced, as they are life itself). He is one of my top shelf authors, and Sweet Caress is undoubtedly one of his best. Certainly the most human, I don't remember he has described deep emotion as honestly and touchingly as in this book. Several times it surprised me how Boyd understood Amory Clay, how much he wrote from the inside out, so to speak. But then men and women are perhaps not as different as we think.
I won't say more. Except that the narrator Jill Bond is truly truly wonderful, and she has brought much to the book. She IS Amory Clay, and so it shall be interesting to read the book. myself one day. I'll need to give it a few months, at least.
"A cobbled , predictable pastiche"
William Boyd always writes well but this story disappointed on several levels. Without the attraction of old photographs to add a veneer of truth to the fiction, the story had to stand on its own merits. Unfortunately I felt that the author had used historical events to cobble together this book. But a big problem for me was that the story lacks feminine insight and the hard drinking, chain smoking heroine never gave me the sense that it was a story narrated by a woman. I felt that the author sensed this, as his homage to femininity came with the ludicrous episode of the padded nappy. The pivotal points were both predictable and implausible but I did like the ending. Another major problem was the fact that the narrator used a giggly little voice which seemed completely at odds with the character and her background. So, would I recommend this book? Definitely not as an audio book. If someone wanted to read a book by a good wordsmith and look at the old pictures, well that's their call.
Not nearly as good as Any Human Heart which is one of my favourite books but better than some others
The reading is clear - I could hear the words. The male voices were crude with over emphasis on strong accents. The intonation for Amory was light, giggly and flirtatious and it seemed completely wrong for the character.
Unless William Boyd is moving into zombie fiction that isn't a possibility - thank goodness..
I've read all of William Boyds books and especially like the way he ties lives, world events and personal lives into one narrative. This novel follows that formula, yet manages to stay fresh. Unlike other people I think the narration is spot on. Very clipped tones that conjure up images of a 'woman from a certain period' whose emotions are tightly controlled, things are 'under' told. I had the same thought that at certain times I could tell it was a woman written by a man, but in some ways that suited the character. Sparse yet rich simultaneously. The smoking was definitely prominent, but I believe that is part of the dissonance Boyd wanted to create, to ensure the reader always is aware that this is a very different period we're talking of.
Overall I really enjoyed it. Had to sit in silent contemplation at the end, the mark of a good novel. Recommended
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