The comfort of an unsurprising read
I do always enjoy reading Boyd, an author who relishes words, knows how to craft a tale, creates complex and believable characters and often, in his books, explores cultural times and places, as he takes his central characters though their lifetimes. His central characters are frequently connected with the arts and culture generally. His historical period is often around the end of the nineteenth and earlier part of the twentieth century
Stunningly good versions of this include Any Human Heart and The New Confessions. Also central, generally, is some kind of obsessional love affair, often going wrong, and leaving unhealed wounds
With the title Love Is Blind the Boyd Reader knows we are in for pretty much the same journey.
Central character here is Brodie Moncur (Boyd generally manages wonderful names). Moncur, who has an uneasy relationship with his domineering, irascible clergyman father, is a gentler soul. He is blessed with perfect pitch. The art he is associated with, therefore, music. Moncur is not however a musical virtuoso himself. A good musician, but not enough so to achieve status sufficient to earn a living from performance. His skill is in his ear, and his craftsman hands. Almost by chance, he stumbles into his profession – piano tuning, and at a time, and in connection with, a piano making business out to rival the highest quality, most prestigious of instrument makers for those virtuosi.
Chance and opportunity send him to Paris. There he meets the Boyd femme fatale. Lika Blum, a beautiful (of course) , passionate (of course), soulful and creative woman of intelligence, complex emotions, and somewhat fluid morality (of course) is a young and vibrant Russian soprano. She also comes trailing clouds of glorious prior entanglements.
It didn’t matter how well you thought you knew someone, he realised. You saw what you wanted to see or your saw what that other person wanted you to see. People were opaque, another person was a mystery
I love the fact that these kinds of travelling-across-cultures-and-inching-through-history Boyd novels are always thoroughly immersive………….however…..(and it felt mean spirited to be thinking this) I did think he was deepening a groove of ‘this is the pattern of a Boyd novel. Even down to how his imaginary characters might tangentially brush past real characters, and we, as readers, surrender to a kind of game Boyd might be playing. So, what I missed was a kind of surprise of new realisation.
Hence like, very much indeed, and a reading experience willingly surrendered into, very comfortably. But I was not unsettled by it, and at the end of the day, probably do want a book to niggle at me, usefully, once finished
I received this as a digital copy, for review, via NetGalley
Statesiders may have to wait till October for publication