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Any Human Heart Paperback – 11 Nov 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (11 Nov. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141047569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141047560
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 3.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (253 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,635 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Its pleasures are endless. . . . Supremely entertaining." -"The Washington Post Book World ""Boyd has an exceptional ability to tell a really compelling story, in dense imaginative detail, about characters with complex, and convincing, emotional lives. . . . I've already read this book twice and probably shall again. Of how many novels can that be said?"--Peter Green, "Los Angeles Times Book Review ""The sort of rare novel that redeems the essential purpose of prose fiction. . . . A high celebration of the plain fun of a life lived with relentless appetite and reasonable grace."--"The Baltimore Sun ""Entertaining and moving. . . . Can be read with sheer pleasure not only for the delicacy of its emotions but for the truth of its perceptions. Like saying goodbye to a good friend, it's hard to see this brilliant novel come to an end." --"The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette " "A wonderful character--and a wonderful book. . . . Boyd persuades you that you've read the confidences of a real, flawed, marginal character battered by every malice and caprice of 20th-century history. " --"The Seattle Times ""A pleasure front to back, and a fond tip of the bowler hat to the upper-class fiction spawned by a long-gone world."-- "Newsweek ""One of the most skillful and appealing writers at work today."--"The Atlantic Monthly ""A novel of deep humanity and insight."--"Newsday"

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

193 of 199 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. P. Lewin on 19 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. Hayes on 24 Mar. 2006
Format: Paperback
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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Barton Keyes on 13 Sept. 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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96 of 100 people found the following review helpful By R. Blain on 17 Nov. 2006
Format: Paperback
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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. I. G. Buttle on 22 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. F. Taylor on 13 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had never read a book by this author before and, from what I can gather, he has never written a book like this before. It had to be put down sometimes, of course, but not for very long. I hated the idea of finishing it because Boyd manages to make every action by Logan Mountstuart interesting - even those that are apparently of no particular significance. In fact, there are frequently little comments that cause you to think they are consequential when they rarely are. This is not a tidy life in which a plan unfolds. If there is a plan it misfired early on and little or no attempt is ever made to provide another. From time to time Logan realizes that he is drifting and resolves (not very convincingly) to do something about it. It is not until near the end that he realizes that drift (like greed) is good, that it brings its own rewards. Things happen and he copes as best he can. Frequently these things are depressing and ugly - a necessary part of the the human condition - but occasionally they are uplifting and beautiful, as in his love for Freya and hers for him. Because he is simply 'telling it as it is', Logan's account is necessarily episodic and I would not recommend this book to anybody who appreciates a good plot. There simply isn't one. I was particularly taken by the speed of events from his schooldays to his death. He manages to convey this sense of the brevity and the consequent sadness of life. It isn't quite 'struts and frets his hour upon the stage' material but there is poetry here. I shall certainly be recommending this to my friends.
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