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Any Human Heart : The Intimate Journals Of Logan Mountstuart [Hardcover]

William Boyd
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (225 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 April 2002
"Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary". So says Logan Mountstuart, the hero of William Boyd's eighth novel. ANY HUMAN HEART tells the story of Mountstuart's long and rackety life, one which spans the twentieth century, in all its fantastic and humdrum, dangerous and tranquil, tragic and humourous aspects. ANY HUMAN HEART is an ambitious, all-encompassing novel. Through the intimate journals of Logan Mounstuart we travel from Uruguay to Oxford, on to Paris, the Bahamas, New York and West Africa, and meet his three wives, his family, his friends and colleagues, his rivals, enemies and lovers, including notables such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd; First Edition - 1st Impression edition (25 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 024114177X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241141779
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (225 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 369,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Boyd is the author of ten novels, including A Good Man in Africa, winner of the Whitbread Award and the Somerset Maugham Award; An Ice-Cream War, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Brazzaville Beach, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; Any Human Heart, winner of the Prix Jean Monnet; Restless, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year, the Yorkshire Post Novel of the Year and a Richard & Judy selection, and most recently, the bestselling Ordinary Thunderstorms.

(Photo credit: Eamonn McCabe)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Logan Gonzago Mountstuart, writer, was born in 1906, and died of a heart attack on October 5, 1991, aged 85. Any Human Heart is his disjointed autobiography, a massive tome chronicling "my personal rollercoaster"--or rather, "not so much a rollercoaster", but a yo-yo, "a jerking spinning toy in the hands of a maladroit child". From his early childhood in Montevideo, son of an English corned beef executive and his Uraguayan secretary, through his years at a Norfolk public school and Oxford, Mountstuart traces his haphazard development as a writer. Early and easy success is succeeded by a long half-century of mediocrity, disappointments and setbacks, both personal and professional, leading him to multiple failed marriages, internment, alcoholism and abject poverty.

Mountstuart's sorry tale is also the story of a British way of life in inexorable decline, as his journey takes in the Bloomsbury set, the General Strike, the Spanish Civil War, 1930s Americans in Paris, wartime espionage, New York avant garde art, even the Baader-Meinhof gang--all with a stellar supporting cast. The most sustained and best moment comes mid-book, as Mountstuart gets caught up in one of Britain's murkier wartime secrets, in the company of the here truly despicable Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Elsewhere author William Boyd occasionally misplaces his tongue too obviously in his cheek--the Wall Street Crash is trailed with truly crashing inelegance--but overall Any Human Heart is a witty, inventive and ultimately moving novel. Boyd succeeds in conjuring not only a compelling 20th century but also, in the hapless Logan Mountstuart, an anti-hero who achieves something approaching passive greatness. --Alan Stewart


Any Human Heart tells the story of Logan Mountstuart's long and rackety life, one which spans every decade of the 20th century, in all its fantastic and humdrum, dangerous and tranquil, tragic and humorous aspects.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
182 of 189 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life less/more ordinary? 19 Sep 2002
I suppose that the measure of a good book is whether you want it to end or not.
I certainly didn't want "Any Human Heart" to end. In fact I was trembling when I read Logan Mountstuart's final diary entry. Now I am mourning the passing of a man I could not possibly have known, existing as he did only in the minds of the author and myself in the two days I have done little else but read this book.
On the face of it, "Any Human Heart" has little to recommend it. It has no plot, a character with more flaws than qualities and seemingly no message to impart.
But Boyd's book is about a life. A life that is very different from yours or mine, in as much as mine is different from yours and ours are different from anyone else's. All our lives are plotless and for the most part very ordinary. Most of us have qualities that pale into insignificance when measured alongside our faults. Logan Mountstuart enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame which - despite Andy Warhol's assertions to the contrary - we don't all experience. "Every dog has his day" is probably closer to the mark.
But in reading "Any Human Heart" we get a rare insight into someone else's life - Logan Mountstuart's - from the minutiae of what he ate for lunch to the experiences that rocked his world and changed him for better or worse. Remarkably, it didn't matter to me that Logan Mountstuart was an entirely fictional character. I suppose this is because all our lives are fictions to those who don't live them.
The title confused me at first, but now I understand. We all have our stories to tell and even the most superficially "ordinary" life is extraordinary to someone else.
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91 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly rare novel. 17 Nov 2006
Read this book! This is the kind of book you chance upon just once or twice every few years - a real journey. Not many authors are capable of what Boyd achieves in these pages: a clever interweaving of fact with fiction and a kaleidoscope of emotions that runs the complete gamut of human experience. I read pretty much continuously, but was unable to pick up another book for almost two weeks after finishing this - there was no point, I was...replete. It stayed with me for ages - this is the literary equivalent of a nine-course meal with a great bottle of wine. Deeply satisfying.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This book is full of compassion, truth, hate and the tragedies of life.
It is so honest and tragic, yet it enable the reader to get a glimpse into the life of an amazing yet ordinary man. It is definately a book that you can read for hours on end.
It is incredibly sad, whilst being incredibly amusing!
it shows how age has no effect on the mind. Our thought processes do not change with age, we may become wiser but we still think the same things as we did when we were teenagers. It shows hows society shows prejudices towards the elderly, and what it feels like to be ignored due to age.
it is a journey, and adventure that must be shared with as many people possible. It makes you think about your life in the true sense of it, it is short, do not waste it, but do not live by the government.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boyd on top of his art 13 Sep 2002
The simplest thing to say about this book is that I felt genuinely sad when it came to an end -- I wanted to go reading about Logan Mountstuart. Through Boyd's skill he becomes an extremely believeable and very empathetic character, subtly changing voice as his outlook on life matures and deepens. The way that Mountstuart's declining years are handled is particularly good. This could have been mawkish and clumsy in the hands of a lesser writer given the roller-coaster of his youth and middle age but it is so skilfully done that it is easily the best part of the tale. A wonderful story.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare thing 16 Mar 2007
Stunningly good. I've just finished reading it for the second time - I never read books twice - and what I remember of it rings true. Big and bold - yes - a fascinating intertwining of historical fact and fiction - yes - but most of all, Boyd evokes the vibrancy of what it is to be alive to life. A fictitious memoir stocked with asides and self-doubt so real that I'd voice them about myself if I had the author's insight and command of language. Filled with simple joys, black despairs, unidealised moral turpitude, lessons of life.

Rereading AHH has rekindled my love for literature after the comparative dryness of Greene, McEwan, Murakami. I really hope that if you read this review, you'll make a respectable attempt to read this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A feast of a book 22 Feb 2006
This book deserves your full attention, not really worthy of a ‘few pages a night’ reading stint. It’s a reflection of life, love and the passing of time which sounds too prosaic to do it justice as a truly enveloping novel. I think a little intellectual snobbery prohibits book reviewers to lavish their ultimate praise, holding this in reserve for some other book, bigger and better, but thus far elusive. I do not have this dilemma and am happy to tell you this is the finest book I have ever read. I don’t read books twice, but I’ll never throw it away, not sure why.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Life, as understood by Logan Mountstuart, is a series of random events, not events which are fated, controlled by a higher power, or the result of carefully made decisions. There's nothing and no one to blame for whatever good or bad luck we may have in life. A person may choose to enjoy the good times, seek out happiness wherever possible, and live life to the fullest or sit back passively and just endure whatever happens. Logan Mountstuart is one of the former types, a man who recognizes that "Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary--it is the respective proportions of those categories that make life appear interesting." But Mountstuart also believes that one can look for and find the extraordinary within the ordinary.
Through his personal journals, begun in 1923, when he is seventeen, and continuing to the time of his death in 1991, we come to know Mountstuart intimately, both as an individual, growing and changing, and as an Everyman, someone who participates in and is affected by the seminal events of the 20th century, after World War I. Because he is a writer, he is able to travel and to know other writers and artists of the period. When he meets Aldous Huxley, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Cyril Connolly, Evelyn Waugh, and Ian Fleming, the reader has the vicarious fun of being there and meeting them, too, since Mountstuart, as a person, appears to be very much like the rest of us. He buys early paintings by Paul Klee and Juan Gris, and Pablo Picasso draws a quick portrait of him and signs it. He engages in intellectual discussions about Braque, Picasso, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the Bloomsbury group and keeps the reader aware of literary and artistic achievements of the era.
It is in his depiction of the historical moment that Boyd shines.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 days ago by Bridget Gough
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic story about the ups and downs of life
Love this story - so true to real life, especially if you know about living a more bohemian lifestyle. High recommend.
Published 1 month ago by Pen
5.0 out of 5 stars I wasn't disappointed. Many Human experiences
I was inspired to read this when I heard a passage being read on The Jeremy Vine Show" about what makes us human. I wasn't disappointed. Many Human experiences.
Published 1 month ago by rina
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the best books ever.
Published 1 month ago by Shirley French
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Enjoyed every minute of this book! The story weaves in and out but I never lost my way. Mountstuart became real and so did his cronies because the research into real events at the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Virgo 53
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A wonderful book. Honest and poignant
Published 1 month ago by Woody
5.0 out of 5 stars Audacious writing
The scope of this novel astonishes. I have the feeling that William Boyd greatly enjoyed fishing around in the pool of his life own experiences and making a rich literary soup out... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ping
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern historical biographical novel
One can think of this book as a historical novel set in very recent times, so that some of the story is in a sense ready made. Read more
Published 1 month ago by talmine
5.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing read
I wasn't too sure about this initially, but in no time, it drew me in and fascinated me. It's essentially a faux autobiography spanning an interesting period in history. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Uncle Barbar
5.0 out of 5 stars Breadth of Experience
I love this novel.
Published 2 months ago by Ms. A. Catherine
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