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Any Human Heart [Paperback]

William Boyd
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 26 2010

Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary, but Logan Mountstuart's - lived from the beginning to the end of the twentieth century - contains more than its fair share of both. As a writer who finds inspiration with Hemingway in Paris and Virginia Woolf in London, as a spy recruited by Ian Fleming and betrayed in the war and as an art-dealer in '60s New York, Logan mixes with the movers and shakers of his times. But as a son, friend, lover and husband, he makes the same mistakes we all do in our search for happiness. Here, then, is the story of a life lived to the full - and a journey deep into a very human heart.


Frequently Bought Together

Any Human Heart + New Confessions, The + Blue Afternoon
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  • New Confessions, The CDN$ 13.00
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Product Description

From Amazon

Logan Gonzago Mountstuart, writer, was born in 1906, and died of a heart attack on October 5, 1991, aged 85. Any Human Heart is his disjointed autobiography, a massive tome chronicling "my personal rollercoaster"--or rather, "not so much a rollercoaster", but a yo-yo, "a jerking spinning toy in the hands of a maladroit child". From his early childhood in Montevideo, son of an English corned beef executive and his Uraguayan secretary, through his years at a Norfolk public school and Oxford, Mountstuart traces his haphazard development as a writer. Early and easy success is succeeded by a long half-century of mediocrity, disappointments and setbacks, both personal and professional, leading him to multiple failed marriages, internment, alcoholism and abject poverty.

Mountstuart's sorry tale is also the story of a British way of life in inexorable decline, as his journey takes in the Bloomsbury set, the General Strike, the Spanish Civil War, 1930s Americans in Paris, wartime espionage, New York avant garde art, even the Baader-Meinhof gang--all with a stellar supporting cast. The most sustained and best moment comes mid-book, as Mountstuart gets caught up in one of Britain's murkier wartime secrets, in the company of the here truly despicable Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Elsewhere author William Boyd occasionally misplaces his tongue too obviously in his cheek--the Wall Street Crash is trailed with truly crashing inelegance--but overall Any Human Heart is a witty, inventive and ultimately moving novel. Boyd succeeds in conjuring not only a compelling 20th century but also, in the hapless Logan Mountstuart, an anti-hero who achieves something approaching passive greatness. --Alan Stewart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Surely one of the most beguiling books of this season, this rich, sophisticated, often hilarious and disarming novel is the autobiography of a typical Englishman as told through his lifelong journal. Born to British parents in Uruguay in 1906, Logan Mountstuart attends an English prep school where he makes two friends who will be his touchstones for the next eight decades. The early entries in his journal, which record his sexual explorations and his budding ambitions, provide a clear picture of the snobbery and genteel brutality of the British social system. Logan is a decent chap, filled with a moral idealism that he will never lose, although his burning sense of justice will prove inconvenient in later years. He goes down from Oxford with a shameful Third, finds early success as a novelist, marries a rich woman he doesn't love, escapes to Spain to fight in the civil war and is about to embark on a happy existence with his second wife when WWII disrupts his and his generation's equilibrium. He's sent on a na‹ve spying mission by British Naval Intelligence and imprisoned for two years. On his release, he finds that tragedy has struck his family. Logan's creativity is stunted, and he slides into alcoholism, chronic infidelity and loneliness. "I believe my generation was cursed by the war," Logan says, and this becomes the burden of the narrative. He resorts to journalism to earn a living, specializing in pieces about the emerging stars of the art world, whom he encounters-somewhat like Zelig-in social situations. Logan's picaresque journey through the 20th century never seems forced, however. His meetings with Picasso, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Hemingway and Ian Fleming are adroitly and credibly interposed into the junctures of his life. This flawed yet immensely appealing protagonist is one of Boyd's most distinctive creations, and his voice-articulate, introspective, urbane, stoically philosophical in the face of countless disappointments-engages the reader's empathy. Logan is a man who sees his bright future dissipate and his great love destroyed, and yet can look back with "a strange sense of pride" that he's "managed to live in every decade of this long benighted century." His unfulfilled life, with his valiant efforts to be morally responsible, to create and, finally, just to get by, is a universal story, told by a master of narrative. Boyd, back in top form, has crafted a novel at least as beautifully nuanced as A Good Man in Africa and Brazzaville Beach. Logan's journal entries are so candid and immediate it's difficult to believe he isn't real. And after 496 pages, it's hard to say good-bye.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Once again William Boyd has produced a jewel. His ability to bring true history into a novel is totally unmatched. But even Boyd has outdone his last few publications with "Any Human Heart," not since "Brazzaville Beach" has he written such a page turner. This book flows effortlessly from cracking good tale to tragic reflection. His creation of this heroic character Logan Mountstuart left me crying at certain points in the book, and I can assure you I have never done that while reading a book before. Boyd uses a diary as a vehicle to detail the facts and emotions of Logan's life, and this adds to the drama, suspense and pain of his story.
If you have the time and you are looking for a summer assignment, go to the book store and purchase William Boyd's library. Read them in any order you like. But if you are looking for one excellent example of this writer's genius, then Any Human Heart is a great place to start. I cannot recommend any book more highly.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Journalized Tale of Epic Proportions May 2 2012
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
If you like reading journals and belle lettres about personal lives wrapped up in history, this is the novel for you. While I found it delightful and amusing in places, as the protagonist Logan Mountstuart reflects on his many affairs of the heart, it did tend to drag a bit near the end as his life gradually hits the skids. This is book about living for the moment and deferring the remorse for another day. Logan Mountstuart is one of those fascinating footloose characters who the writer William Boyd is famous for heading up his award-winning novels with. He is blessed with ambition, brains, a good pedigree, fine tastes and charm but, alas, no enduring sense of lasting purpose. In "Any Human Heart" the reader finds Logan, son of a fairly successful rising-business family, heading out into life with a desire to write scholarly pieces. The Great War is over and Mountstuart and his prep school pals have ended up in Oxford. Even though this decade will be a rough one economically and socially, these young bucks are the lucky ones: no war scars, nice fat allowances, and a zest for discovering all that life has to offer, sex included. Their passage into manhood will be adventurous to say the least: flings on the continent, attending parties, meeting strange and desirable women, writing best-sellers, and settling down to married life are all in the cards. But there is a problem to deal with: fortunes can change very quickly. Boyd has put this story in the context of one of the world's biggest historical game-changers: the Great Depression. Old desires of the heart start to wear thin as new yearnings awake. Mountstuart has grown tired of England's snobbery and a loveless marriage, and is in search of new gig; an international columnist followed by a stint with the British secret service during World War II. Read more ›
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By lazza
Format:Hardcover
'Any Human Heart' is the autobiography of a fictitious twentieth century literary character, Logan Mountstuart. Despite his rather dodgy name, this character grows up into a rather interesting man. It is especially his older life when he reflects upon disappointments and the overall value of his life does this book really catch fire - I found it to be most moving.
Unfortunately all is not perfect. The author decided to "be cute" by having Logan Mountstuart be personal friends of famous twentieth century characters such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Hemingway, and Virginia Woolf. Some readers might find this to add extra spice to the story. I found it exploitative and totally unnecessary - the book is solid enough. At any rate this Forrest Gump-like diversions really don't spoil this fine book.
Bottom line: a very worthy read. William Boyd is in fine form.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most poignant books ever written Nov. 14 2005
Format:Paperback
Inspiring, suspenseful and very well written, this book is one of my personal favorites.
It tells the story of a life that all of us want to live. Who wouldn't want to be an art dealer mingling with the literary figures of the 20th century, and then occasionally spying for the British government?
I'm neither a spy, nor a writer, but many passages in this book sounded very familiar to me. The hopes, the dreams, the expectations, and the losses, we've all lived them.
Read it and be amazed. It will not disappoint
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read! Sept. 6 2012
By Lizlon
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fantastic book! Storytelling at it's best as you follow this very human character through his life. Recommend to everyone who loves a good read!
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