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Summary and book reviews of Any Human Heart by William Boyd

Any Human Heart

The Intimate Journals of Logan Mountstuart: A Novel

by William Boyd

Any Human Heart
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2003, 496 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2004, 512 pages

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Book Summary

A moving, ambitious and richly conceived novel that summons up the heroics and follies of twentieth-century life.

The author of Armadillo, The Blue Afternoon and Brazzaville Beach—the novelist who has been called a "master storyteller" (Chicago Tribune) and "a gutsy writer who is good company to keep" (Time)—now gives us his most entertaining, sly and compelling novel to date, a novel that 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.

Here is the "riotous and disorganized reality" of Mountstuart's eighty-five 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.

A moving, ambitious and richly conceived novel that summons up the heroics and follies of twentieth-century life.

BookBrowse Note: Footnotes have been inserted in appropriate places. In the actual text, they appear at the bottom of the page, as usual.

PREAMBLE TO THESE JOURNALS

"Yo, Logan," I wrote. "Yo, Logan Mountstuart, vivo en la Villa Flores, Avenida de Brasil, Montevideo, Uruguay, America del Sur, El Mundo, El Sistema Solar, El Universo." These were the first words I wrote--or to be more precise, this is the earliest record of my writing and the beginning of my writing life--words that were inscribed on the flyleaf of an indigo pocket diary for the year 1912 (which I still possess and whose pages are otherwise void). I was six years old. It intrigues me now* to reflect that my first written words were in a language not my own. My lost fluency in Spanish is probably my greatest regret about my otherwise perfectly happy childhood. The serviceable, error-dotted, grammatically unsophisticated Spanish that I speak today is the poorest of poor cousins to that instinctive colloquial jabber ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The introduction, discussion questions and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group’s reading of Any Human Heart, by William Boyd, author of Armadillo, The Blue Afternoon, and Brazzaville Beach. William Boyd, who has been called "a master storyteller" (Chicago Tribune) and "one of the most skillful and appealing writers at work today" (The Atlantic Monthly), now gives us his most entertaining, sly and compelling novel to date, a novel that 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.

Reader's Guide

  1. Is Logan a likeable and engaging character? If so, what ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Surely one of the most beguiling books of this season, this rich, sophisticated, often hilarious and disarming novel is the autobiography of a typical Englishman as told through his lifelong journal....Boyd, back in top form, has crafted a novel at least as beautifully nuanced as A Good Man in Africa and Brazzaville Beach.

Library Journal - Patrick Sullivan

...brimming with vitality, pathos, and psychological intimacy. Enthusiastically recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

The up-and-down life and times of a globetrotting author-adventurer, chronicled with exuberant wit and romantic gusto. A rich, unruly work, intermittently skimpy and chaotic. And, in its best pages (of which there are a fortunate many), a nearly irresistible entertainment.

Evening Standard (UK) - Catherine Shoard

Boyd's terrific powers of storytelling are given free rein here this is a biography where you don't know the ending, and he keeps you glued and guessing . . . One of Boyd's most enjoyable novels to date generous, witty and sneakily profound.

Literary Review (UK) - Geordie Grieg

Compelling . . . An addictively enjoyable read as well as a testament to the endurance of the human heart.

Sunday Telegraph (UK) - Caroline Moore

A work of astonishing ventriloquistic virtuosity . . . A brilliant evocation of a past era . . . One finds oneself almost reading the journals as genuine . . . which is quite a feat, because Boyd has skillfully mimicked the artless and random qualities of every diary.

The Times (UK) - Erica Wagner

A book full of delights . . . No one is better than William Boyd at drawing the reader into [a] tale from the very first sentence.

The Spectator (UK) - Anita Brookner

An excellent picaresque novel, written in a confident, easy-going style . . . Any Human Heart is an old-fashioned, new-fangled tour de force which maintains its brio to the very end. An obvious contender for the next round of literary prizes, it would be considered a worthy and genuinely popular winner of any one of them.

The Mail on Sunday (UK) - Anthony Quinn

Astounding. . .The most sincere measure of praise one can attach to William Boyd's new novel is that it ranks alongside The New Confessions as one of his great achievements . . . It also resembles the earlier book in its ambition and spirit, being an account of tumultuous tragicomic life that lasts from one end of the twentieth century to the other. To pull off that trick once is considerable to do it twice is astounding.

Reader Reviews
walter sarfatti

from Montevideo to London (Glebe Place)
I walked into my local library in San Gimignano and picked up a book by the title Ogni cuore Umano by William Boyd and even by breaking a principal I have in not reading British literature in translation (I am half English) I was not able to obey ...   Read More

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