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Waiting for Sunrise Hardcover – 16 Feb 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; First Edition edition (16 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408817748
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408835937
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (276 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 84,715 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


William Boyd is one of our most cherished writers ... Waiting for Sunrise is as much A Dance to the Music of Time as Any Human Heart, a giddy burlesque where characters, particularly figures of erotic obsession, vanish only to reappear unexpectedly ... It's the sort of novel you finish then begin again to revisit your favourite bits ... More than anything, Waiting for Sunrise is a gleeful celebration of storytelling - sly, clever, frequently hilarious, always involving. For me at least this is the literary event of the year (The Times)

There are few more reliable literary pleasures than a Boyd novel. Over three decades he has established himself as one of Britain's most popular and highly regarded novelists ... He is a novelist who writes intelligent books about plausible and fully rounded characters, brimming with challenging ideas and themes. Above all, he is a storyteller nonpareil (Mick Brown Telegraph)

Boyd guides the reader with a master's hand. It's ages since I read a novel that offers such breathlessly readable narrative enjoyment, such page-by-page storytelling confidence and solidity. Waiting for Sunrise is a homage to thriller writers, spy novels and crime detection stories and films from a hundred years ago, stretching from Sherlock Holmes, via Buchan and Greene, to Hitchcock (Independent)

An intricately plotted world of spies, lies and the double cross ... a coming of age story about an individual's self enlightenment, as much as a sui generis thriller. Waiting for Sunrise proves that rarest of beasts: a tantalisingly experimental work that is also an immensely satisfying page turner (Sunday Telegraph)

Boyd's run of first-rate literary thrillers continues with this nerve-jangling First World War-era tale (Benjamin Evans Sunday Telegraph)

Boyd's sophisticated espionage thriller succeeds in capturing the eve-of-war atmosphere of 1913 Vienna (Observer)

Book Description

A thrilling, plot-twisting new novel set in Europe during the first world war, from the bestselling author of Any Human Heart, Restless and Ordinary Thunderstorms

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Michael Watson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It makes a change to have a spy thriller set in Vienna around the turn of the first world war and William Boyd gets to grips with this one very well. In fact, if you hadn't read the blurb, you might be thinking this was a rather lame love affair doomed to failure thanks to the up and coming horror of the war.

But Lysander Rief, there's a name and a half, up-and-coming actor is drawn into the spying game little by little and he turns out to be rather good at it. Whilst trying to sort out his psychological problems with a colleague of Freud in Vienna, he is asked to obtain the code in order to break secret messages emanating from the UK and finishing up where they shouldn't be! He does this with such aplomb that, despite a near death situation, he is then rehabilitated to London, his personal problems resolved and so the fun begins.

The author weaves an excellent spy chase from this point. Rief's earlier contacts catch up with him, he finds himself investigating a spy who may well be more closely connected that he would wish and those around him each appear to be the possible suspect. The ending is odd. To explain it gives away too much information but there we are. I enjoyed the book. The atmosphere in Austria and in London is excellently described especially given the fast approaching circumstances. The inclusion of a Zeppelin adds a little flavour to the mix and the storyline makes you turn the pages. Whether or not there is room for a follow-on remains to be seen but the main protagonist is a character who could be developed for future forays into the spying world, after all, who better than an actor to confuse the enemy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By nigeyb on 13 April 2013
Format: Paperback
I stuck with this for 320 pages (of a total of 428) before waving the white flag, and reading the rest of the plot on Wikipedia. I read my first William Boyd novel, Brazzaville Beach, in the 1990s, having been reliably informed that it was wonderful. It wasn't. It was competent and perfectly fine but not the masterpiece I was expecting. I was inspired to read "Waiting For Sunrise" as, once again, I'd read a plethora of positive reviews, and because the story is set in an era that I find fascinating.

The plot is long and meandering, switching locations, as often as the book switches genres. The story moves from Vienna, to Sussex, to London, to Geneva and back to London - whilst the plot jumps from psychoanalysis, to tortured relationships, family dramas, trench warfare and spying. It would all have made more sense if the book just focussed on one theme. There are sections of the book that I enjoyed: the opening section, set in Vienna, felt well researched if a little improbable. Unfortunately Boyd's writing is pedestrian with far too many tedious descriptions of rooms and personal appearance.

I am baffled by the praise heaped on this book. It is profoundly average with odd moments of interest and excitement. For anyone interested in reading a superb book on spying during World War One, then look no further than W. Somerset Maugham's wonderful "Ashenden, or, The British Agent". A book based on first hand experience and far more thoughtful, insightful and credible than "Waiting For Sunrise".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Eacott on 12 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was delighted to find a new book by William Boyd, having really loved Any Human Heart, and re-read Restless after the TV dramatization. However, I was disappointed. It lacks the pace and tautness of the previous books. At times it suspends belief too much. Rather than being a spy story with amorous adventures, it is sex, real or fantasied, with spying on the side. The colour and descriptions are, as always, well portrayed giving an excellent feel of the time, but somehow the characters don't solidify, they're flat and laboured. The final denouement is too neat and too many questions are left unanswered. To my mind, the book is definitely below par.
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77 of 85 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a highly readable novel which will keep you turning pages into the night...The story focuses around the character of Lysander Rief, a young English actor who is drawn by events into the world of wartime spies. Opening in 1913, in Vienna, shortly before the outbreak of war, the story is driven along by the chance meeting, and subsequent tempestuous relationship, of Lysander, and a young English sculptress. Arrested for a crime he did not commit, Lysander finds the consequences taking over his life, taking him deeper and deeper into a chain of events in which nothing is quite what it seems.

As always with William Boyd, this is superbly crafted fiction, beautifully written, and compulsive reading

Superb - highly recommended
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121 of 134 people found the following review helpful By M.D. Smart TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his novel Restless, William Boyd pulled off the difficult trick of marrying a tense wartime thriller with an affecting study of a daughter coming to terms with the knowledge that her mother is not the person she thought she knew. The result was a book that had the compulsive appeal of a commercial page-turner with the satisfying emotional depth of the literary fiction Boyd is known for. In his latest title, Waiting For Sunrise, he attempts the same feat - sadly, the results this time are less successful, and it adds up to a disappointing and disjointed whole.

The main problem with Waiting For Sunrise is it appears to be two disparate novels cobbled together. It begins in pre-WWI Vienna as we follow a young English actor, Lysander Rief, who has come to seek a cure for a debilitating sexual problem through psychoanalysis. During his stay he meets a free-spirited sculptor, Hettie Bull, and they begin an intense affair which apparently cures his 'problem'. All seems to be going well when Lysander suddenly finds himself in serious trouble and has to return to England. From that point the novel morphs into an espionage thriller, with Lysander pressured into assisting the War Office with breaking a secret code and unmasking a traitor.

In fact, both these plot strands are gripping, up to a point; we get a fascinating glimpse of pre-war Europe, an insight into psychoanalysis and a passionate love story in the first section, while the spy story is genuinely thrilling for the most part, with plot twists galore and almost every supporting character coming under suspicion. It even begins to seem that these two halves of the story may be connected after all, and I was enjoying the book a great deal...until the last few chapters.
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