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am 15. April 2000
Superficially, it's tempting to pidgeonhole William Boyd's "The Blue Afternoon" as a thriller. For much of the way, you may find your heart racing and yourself thinking you can't put this down until you reach the end. But at the heart of this wonderfully entertaining novel is a romance, a romance so huge and heady it's almost redemptive in its force. The thriller elements of murder, blackmail and betrayal only create the opportunities and subtext for the great love affair to play out. Some readers may find the Salvador/Delphine affair surprising and even incredible. You wouldn't if you allow yourself the luxury of accepting Cupid's strange ways. But what's even more intriguing to me is Boyd's ability to generate a deep sense of sustained ambivalence in the treatment of his characters and their personal situations throughout the novel. You're never sure enough about any of them to rule anything out. For instance, Salvador's Filipino colleague, Pantaleon, shows a surprising side to him under pressure. Delphine also remains an enigma, right to the very end. Boyd's reluctance at a clear resolution perhaps hints at how he really wishes us to regard his novel, not as a "who dunnit" but as a sojourn with the human heart which needs Love and Romance to nourish and keep it alive. Kay, Salvador's daughter, isn't a technical devise or a red herring either. She may be an observer and peripheral to the plot which is told in flashbacks, but we are told she's one of two reasons why Salvador has managed to gain strength to survive his personal tragedy. "The Blue Afternoon" is an engaging and superbly written novel. Highly recommended reading.
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am 17. Juni 1998
My second William Boyd book. A complex tale of love, life, murder, intrigue and ethics. Boyd keeps the reader guessing until the end and then some more. It's a brilliantly constructed story with real life characters. Kay Fischer's life was falling apart, forced out of her architectural partnership, left with almost nothing by her sly partner, she tries to re-build her reputation as an architect. It's not only her professional life that in shambles. She is still trying to get over her ex-husband, who turns up once in a while, and the death of her baby son. While all this turmoil is dragging her down, out of the blue a strange man, Dr. Carrissant appears in her life, changing everything. He claims to be her father, but she's never heard of him - for all she knew, her father was dead. Well, that's how the story begins and slowly unravels. One by one Dr. Carrissant tells Kay his life story. But he needs her help to find his true love, Delphine. The two of them embark on a strange and wonderful journey to bring their lives to a full circle. Boyd is a wonderful writer, who is able to keep the reader hooked, unable to put the book down. The characters are so real, it's a pleasure to read. He seems to have some fascination with flying, a theme that recurs in this book (as well as in "Brazzaville Beach").
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The opening lines of this book grabbed me like few others, compelling me to read on.
Granted, the plot didn't always proceed as expected, but that ain't no sin.
It has been said that the characters in this story have not been fully developed, but to me the central characters appeared clearly enough.
Maybe the reader doesn't get to know them completely, but he does get to know as much about them as is necessary for the development of the story.
Boyd weaves several stories into the plot, and his evocative storytelling pulls the reader in.
Again, the book has been criticized for giving away the ending, but this isn't a mystery novel, so who cares; thousands of readers will know how novels such as The Old Man and The Sea or The Remains of the Day turn out, but that in no way detracts from the sheer joy of reading the words penned by the authors of those classics.
Same here.
The end pulses with life, love, and loss, all tempered by hope and desire, albeit unfulfilled. The final ten pages moved me as few books ever have, with understated passion and elegance, and the final 2 pages had me awestruck.
Not for some, but a gem for others.
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am 17. Januar 1999
William Boyd returns to the familiar ground of Hollywood's golden area between the World Wars (which was so meticulously recreated for us in his 1988 novel "The New Confessions") and embarks on a journey which takes him forward in time to the present day, and around the world to the Philippines and Portugal. While the Blue Afternoon does not match his earlier work (Brazzaville Beach, A Good Man in Africa) in terms of meticulous attention to historical detail, he is in top form in poignant descriptions of love affairs between characters in desparate circumstances. This book is a must read for Boyd fans. For those uninitiated to Boyd, it would perhaps be better to start out with "The Destiny of Nathalie X", a fine collection of short stories, or the more satisfying and thematically focused "The New Confessions".
Fans of Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh may enjoy The Blue Afternoon, which has the same sort of sweeping temporal background as Gatsby or Brideshead.
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am 30. April 1999
A very unusual book which could be considered a period mystery, but stands as excellent literature on its own merits. The book starts in 1936 Los Angeles and follows a young woman architect for just enough pages for the reader to get interested in her. Then a mysterious man shows up and claims to be her father. After 70 pages she is then whisked away on a cross-Atlantic sea voyage to help her father find a woman in Lisbon. The bulk of the book then serves to explain why. In a slightly awkward device, the woman recounts, in prose form, what her father tells her about his life. This takes the reader to Manila in 1902 and follows a her father, as a doctor as he strives to bring modern medical practices to the Philippines, helps the occupying US Army investigate a series of gruesome murders, and watches his marriage fade away and maintain a love affair. There is also a subplot involving an attempt to build a flying machine. Events build to a crisis and collapse. By now the reader understands who the woman in Lisbon is and why she is important. Boyd's strength is building a complete description of time and place at the same time as he creates characters with great depth. This book won the LA Times Book Prize for Fiction.
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am 2. Juni 1999
BLUE AFTERNOON, by William Boyd, came up to my expectations. I enjoyed it, as I do all of Boyd's novels. I found the plot intriguing, and the facts were really well researched. The main character, Carriscant, was a surgeon. I did find the details of the operations he performed, became a little tedious and not to my taste. A book I would recommend to my friends.
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am 28. Juni 1999
The book is captivating -- like a mystery fiction. But can anyone suggest who in fact committed the murders?
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