With "Waiting For Sunrise", William Boyd distils three decades of storytelling skills into another very fine novel indeed. He seems most comfortable writing about the early years of the twentieth century, and the book is based on events happening between 1913 - 1915, first in pre-war Vienna, and then in the early years of World War One.
Lysander Rief, a young actor, carries the story well. He's an engaging character, not unlike many other of Boyd's male creations, in that he is buffeted by events and tries to make sense of them as the story unfolds. Indeed, the random nature of life, our place in it and our changing sense of identity are themes very much at the centre of this fast-paced novel, that at times reads like a thriller.
Occasionally, the sweep of the book seems to find Boyd losing his way in the narrative; some of the plot seems to meander a little at times and, enjoyable though this is in terms of the writing skills on display, leaves you wondering just where this is all heading.
The book seems uncertain of itself in places, whether it's more literary novel than thriller - and ends up being a combination of both, which overall works well. The end of one era (pre-World War 1) and the dawn of a new, darker age in which to live - is conveyed well, but the strands of the plot are pulled together a little rapidly in a conclusion that feels a bit rushed.
All that said, the book is a wonderful page-turner, with characters, events and sense of time and place being real strong points. Boyd enthusiasts will probably welcome this seeming return to form after the slight disappointment of "Ordinary Thunderstorms." 60 this year, Boyd thankfully shows no signs of running out of ideas - and this is one of his strongest novels for a few years. Recommended - and thoroughly enjoyable.
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