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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Book Review: "Sweet Caress" by William Boyd

There are a few authors whose work I read, studied, and reread in the lead up to school exams. William Boyd was one such author, and since then I have had a fondness for his work and look out for new books when they arrive.

Sweet Caress is one of those wonderful 'whole life' novels where the character becomes so familiar to the reader that it is almost unbearable to put the book down. Chronicling the life of Amory Clay, a female photographer working throughout the Twentieth Century, the novel is a wonderful snapshot of both an individual, and a turbulent period in history. Told as her health is failing, the story weaves through the decades, returning to the elderly Amory periodically.

Starting in London as a society photographer working alongside her beloved Uncle Greville, Amory is a determined and adventurous spirit. From Berlin in the 1920s, to Paris, New York and a turbulent London, Amory lives a life of vivid experience, working as a photographer in art, fashion, society and as a war documentarian. Delving into her relationships with the key men in her life, Amory's story is one filled with romance and tragedy; a life with all of its unique twists and turns.

I was lucky enough to attend an event with William Boyd last week in which he spoke at length about his quest to make fiction seem as real as possible. In this novel, the words are intertwined with a series of black and white photographs which are presented as Amory's work. For me, this did have the effect of making me wonder if Amory Clay was indeed a real person. In fact these beautiful images are all anonymous photographs reproduced and captioned for the purpose of the story.

Sweet Caress is a novel which is utterly absorbing and may just encourage you to live a life less ordinary.

Buy the book: Sweet Caress: The Many Lives of Amory Clay

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