Determined to deal with my overflowing to-read shelf, I picked up Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd. Thoughtful with a twisty plot, we follow actor Lysander Rief from Vienna to the trenches as he tries to identify a traitor passing war secrets to the enemy. It is Vienna 1913. Actor Lysander Rief has gone to Vienna seeking help for an intimate problem. In the waiting room he encounters two people who will determine the course of Rief’s life in the forthcoming Great War. Rief falls head over heels in lust with Hettie Bull but when Rief is thrown into prison charged with rape, he feels abandoned. He is extricated from Austria thanks to the help of a shadowy British government officer and Rief’s own ingenuity. But he owes a debt and is drawn into the shadowy world of wartime spies. Someone is sending coded messages about essential infrastructure, supply and troop movements to the enemy, and Rief is charged with hunting down the traitor.
Boyd is one of my favourite writers, his writing flows and there are multiple layers to consider long after finishing the book. All concocted with a skilful touch of humour in the right place. It all starts in the consulting room of Dr Bensimon who suggests that Rief’s delicate problem, based on an unfortunate but funny episode in his youth, can be solved not by drugs or hypnosis but by his own theory of Parallelism. Rief must revisit his memory of the incident and reconstruct the story of what happened so that today his dreams are about the changed story and his little problem stops happening. Smoke and mirrors. Rief, as an actor, is adept at pretending to be what he is not and there are countless characters he meets who do the same. He is good at spotting some people who are acting, but misses others. But unlike on stage, missing the clues can lead to hurt, separation and death. And at stake in the bigger picture of the war are the lives of allied soldiers.
This is a book about deception; lies to others, lies told to oneself. Small lies told for convenience. Big lies told to disguise treason. Along the way, people get hurt.
So much more than a conventional spy thriller from a master author. 4* for me rather than 5* because of the slow beginning. It pays to be patient.
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Here are my reviews of other books by William Boyd:-
ANY HUMAN HEART
LOVE IS BLIND
THE DREAMS OF BETHANY MELLMOTH
THE BLUE AFTERNOON
… and try the first paragraph of ARMADILLO.
If you like this, try:-
‘Wake’ by Anna Hope
‘The Lie’ by Helen Dunmore
‘Corpus’ by Rory Clements
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WAITING FOR SUNRISE by William Boyd #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5hB via @SandraDanby
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