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Love is Blind

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Love Is Blind” goes down easy, its pleasures are vaguely guilty, and upon setting it down, it swiftly vanishes from the mind. There he meets and forms a business venture with John Kilbarron–“The Irish Liszt” - a brilliant pianist but with fading powers, but their professional relationship is soured as Brodie falls in love with Kilbarron's muse, the soprano Lika Brum.

Without his “Franklin” bifocal spectacles, the world appears to Brodie as nothing more than a vague mist, “utterly aqueous”; it’s an early sign that this young Scotsman’s vision is not necessarily to be trusted. The last sentence highlights why - you don't just need a 'substantial float', you need an infinite one (and a casino prepared to extend you infinite credit lines). He moves around and leaves Paris to head to Russia, and then…well he’s a bit lost in the geographical sense as well as the obsessive love one. It is clearly implied that his relationship with his father is toxic, and although he is sorry for his sisters, he relishes the fact he is the “one who got away”.Nevertheless, Boyd’s drama builds powerfully towards its ending, when at last Brodie arrives in the Bay of Bengal, and where he unwittingly mouths (in German) some of Chekhov’s own words. Moncur’s escape from the manse, to take on a position at his employer’s Parisian showroom, leads to a keenly observed saga revolving around both his infatuation with Lika and his troubled relationship with her tempestuous pianist lover, “the Irish Liszt”, John Kilbarron, and his malevolent brother, Malachi. It was premiered at Hampstead Downstairs(2016) and has recently had a new production at the Theatre Royal Bath. Yet as this is 1897, and as the Russian is a doctor in his late thirties who is staying in the Pension Russe, drinking fermented mare’s milk in a bid to keep consumption at bay, and as Chekhov did all of those things too, I think we can safely say that we have Anton on deck.

All those New York art experts at the party who claimed to know his work had been well and truly fooled. Boyd delineates Brodie's relationship through the years, his travels, the dangers, a man that gambles with his own system. Brodie is, indeed, near-blind—he can’t see well at all without both the lenses in his Franklin spectacles. Objectivity and resignation are fine in theory, but this is a love story after all, and, no matter how hard he tries, Brodie Moncur cannot command the yearnings of his heart.Brodie’s entrepreneurial flair is soon recognized by the head of the company, who sends him to run their Paris branch and expand their business there. The doctor recommends that Brodie Moncur leaves Paris for a sunnier, drier climate and that he avoids emotional turmoil, if possible. After reading a less than satisfactory novel, I wanted something with guaranteed quality, so I turned to a William Boyd book I’d had on my Kindle for ages. It’s a classic example of Boyd getting things off to a propulsive start, and on the surface Love Is Blind has all the hallmarks of a slow-burning thriller – the event-packed story of a single decade in Brodie’s life. Interestingly, I find myself in the somewhat unusual position of loving a book more than many others on GR.

Brodie meets Lydia Blum, a Russian soprano destined to be the love of his life, although their affair results in them going on the run in fear of their lives . All the lose ends are tied up and there seems to be an air of suspense throughout the story, even when Moncur secures what appears to be the dream job of working in the Paris showroom for Channon pianos where the misdemeanours of one of the characters ultimately leads to Moncur being in the employ of the tormented John Kilbarron and his menacing brother. When Brodie is offered a job in Paris, he seizes the chance to flee Edinburgh and his tyrannical clergyman father, and begin a wildly different new chapter in his life. The novel is deliciously, compulsively readable-what a treat to relax into the words of a skilled storyteller. In Any Human Heart and The New Confessions so rich is his mix of fact and fiction that he almost convinced me he was writing about the life of a real people.In this cross-country tale, William Boyd’s historical composition considers the life and times of a Scottish piano tuner, who finds his existence upended by his extreme love for a married Russian singer. At the age of nine years he attended Gordonstoun school, in Moray, Scotland and then Nice University (Diploma of French Studies) and Glasgow University (MA Hons in English and Philosophy), where he edited the Glasgow University Guardian. I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes. This is a tale that features numerous locations including Europe, Russia and the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, taking in music, love, betrayal, revenge, and secrets with its wide cast of characters. Boyd presents us with a chaotic and challenging life conjured by the blindness of love in all its aspects and how it shapes up to be infinitely testing of the human heart.

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