Review of Any Human Heart by William Boyd
I actually read Any Human Heart by William Boyd this past summer, just randomly selecting it from the ever-inviting library shelves. I knew nothing about the novel, only that the phrase resonated and sounded super familiar (turns out it’s from a famous poem), so I checked it out and began to read. The book read like a classic right away so I kind of assumed that it was. My curiosity got the better of me so I checked the publication date: 2010
I was blown away… who knew people could still write like that? I had kind of given up hope of ever finding authors as lyrical as some of the greats. I was wrong. William Boyd is fantastic, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.
This particular novel is written as though it is a compilation of diary entries, all belonging to that a of a man alive from the early 1900s, through WWI and in to the mid to late 1900s. The entries cover his teen years, his war experience, his loves, his defeats, and his victories.
The Good: The main character, Logan Monstuart, is just balanced parts – a little stupid, a little smart, a little selfish, and a little generous. He felt real. There are such believable ups and downs in his life; only few are extreme, and they are still rendered realistic by the writing and the situations that Boyd creates.
I honestly cried a few times reading this, and I always stand by the fact that anything that can move you to extreme emotion is not only powerful, but clearly speaking some kind of truth. This is literature at its finest. It is approachable, well-written, powerful, and realistic, beautiful story.
Logan also encounters some truly notably people who I always delight reading about : Hemingway, Ian Fleming, and Virginia Woolfe all make appearances along with some of the British Royalty. It didn’t feel out of place, given Logan’s own background and current standing, but flowed smoothly.
The novel also addresses the theme of aging in a way that I don’t think I have ever encountered. There are moments where it is absolutely depressing; you see Logan at his worst, and it is tragic. But there are also moments where you see how wise aging has made him, and how completely not envious he is of youth – he remarks on how he doesn’t want or need to start all over. He’s been there, done that.
The Bad: It is tragic at times, so I suppose that must be noted, but it is incredibly well done.
The Verdict: I think any human soul could and will enjoy this novel. I highly recommend it to all so add it to your ‘to read’ list.
Written by Rachel B.
Rachel is a co-creator and writer at Definitely Not for the Birds (DNFB). She recently graduated with a degree in English. Presently, she writes, reads, and then reads and writes some more, with a giant and ever-present mug of green tea in her hand. Follow Rachel @rrbindl and DNFB @not4birds