16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing and absorbing,
This review is from: Waiting for Sunrise (Hardcover)William Boyd has delivered another intriguing spy novel. Whenever I open one of his books I wonder where he's going to take me this time. Waiting for Sunrise is set in Vienna, London and Geneva between 1913-1915. The hero is Lysander Rief, a moderately successful English actor who is the son of a very famous English actor. When the book opens, Lysander has travelled to pre-war Vienna to undertake psychotherapy, a fledgling new field. Lysander has left his glamourous fiancee behind in London, but when he meets the irrepressible Hettie Bull in Vienna, he embarks on a passionate affair. Hettie is a sculptor and is part of the dazzling Austrian art scene. The fallout from this affair will have long-lasting repercussions in his life and will lead to his activities during the war. I won't describe any more of the plot than that - this is the kind of book you'll enjoy more if you don't know where it's going.
Lysander is an interesting character. Much like Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps, he doesn't control very much of what happens to him over the course of the book, but he meets challenges with an actor's flair for improvisation. At one point he actually comments that he feels like "invisible strings were being pulled by a person or persons unknown and that (he) was attached to their ends".
The title of the book, "Waiting for Sunrise", refers both to waiting in limbo for the arrival of a new day (as Lysander must do on several occasions), but also to waiting for the clarity that comes when light is shone on things. Somewhat ironically, Lysander turns to psychotherapy in a bid to understand his problems, but the solution will come from obfuscating real events. Later, when he needs to identify someone who is betraying their country, he must also do so through deception. Towards the end of the book Lysander believes that he has learned to live with uncertainty, but whether he actually has is in question. To add to the general theme of confusion, there is a huge amount of betrayal that takes place over the novel - both by Lysander and to Lysander. Only a couple of key characters maintain true for the entire book.
As always, Boyd's writing is rich in detail, and he does a fantastic job of bringing this time in history to life. The clothes, the food, the streets, the cafes - all are beautifully described. As in Any Human Heart, he also gifts real life individuals with walk-on roles in the story. It's a fascinating, twisting story that I liked very much.