Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel by William Boyd is an utterly unique sort of reader-interactive, page turning plot twister, audacious and evocative like no other fiction I have ever read before. I finished reading the book days ago but still I continue to think about this splendidly enthralling novel, turning it over and over again in my mind, asking myself the same questions, trying to work out the puzzles left undone, following loose threads, wondering if the trickster was really unmasked and the mystery truly solved.
The protagonist of the story is an English dandy named Lysander Rief, an ordinary young man whose intelligence, handsomeness and talent for dramatic acting are all three undistinguishing. A man fraught with human frailties, Lysander is a non-extraordinary stage player by vocation, whose destiny will thrust him into extraordinary circumstances requiring him to rise to a role he is reluctant to take on- first as a soldier, then as a spy- to do good for the benefit of his country, to become a real hero of World War I.
Rief's plunge into this unexpected foray of heroism leaves him stranded between two worlds... of reality and imagination, of darkness and light, of black and white, of the edge of night and the break of day-in the shadows, waiting for sunrise.
Part espionage thriller, part World War I military history, part detective mystery, part psychological drama, this riveting, nontraditional novel is also an examination of politics- social, sexual, psychological and emotional. It is a long, twisted journey into the human psyche, acidly observant and intriguingly rich enough to be savored intently and pondered long after the journey is finished.
Lysander Rief is merely a play actor performing on a brightly lit stage and casting just shadows and illusions which look like memories. He is a man looking into a one way mirror and getting a reflection far and deep below; where he was, he is not now...a man with a "past as irrelevant to him as the future. A perfect stasis; the most alluring inertia."
WAITING FOR SUNRISE is about a neutral world, "flat, empty, bereft of meaning and significance. It's us, our imaginations, that make it vivid, fill it with colour, feeling, purpose and emotion. Once we understand this we can shape our world in any way we want. In theory."
This is the first William Boyd novel I have experienced and I immediately spotted his singular genius for plotting, pacing, description and evocation.
I delighted in the details of Boyd's characters-the way they looked, the way they smelled, the way they spoke, the clothes they wore, the foods they ate, the beverages they imbibed. I was captivated by the richly atmospheric settings, the descriptive details of buildings, streets, cities and country sides of early 1900s Europe. I loved the allusions to Shakespeare, Freud and Jung. (And the cameo appearance of Sigmund Freud was especially charming as well as intriguing). I thoroughly enjoyed the wide variety of witty repartee and smart dialogue.
William Boyd has a stylistic charisma which draws us into his story arc and keeps us spellbound by a mesmerizing narrative voice which reminds us continuously that; "The world, our world, is for each one of us a unique blend-a union, a fusing- of this individual imagination and reality."
Waiting for Sunrise: A Novel is a hypnotic display of William Boyd's robust brilliance. Playing with imagination and reality, it is a sophisticated and riveting novel- humorous, anecdotal, perceptive, enigmatic and insistent- filled with mysteries which keep whispering to us long after we've put the book down. We will continue to consider the many faces of truth, the many fronts and facades, and keep asking ourselves... was the real Andromeda unveiled? Was the hero's journey a reality? Who belongs to the voice in the introduction and final passages, speaking in second person while it closely watches the protoganist? Could it be the voice of Andromeda? We too, with all our unanswered questions, are left in the darkness waiting for the sunrise.