Friday, August 23, 2013
Review of Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd (2012, Bloomsbury)
Waiting for Sunrise is a detailed character study of Lysander Rief -- an actor from a wealthy background who holds a dark secret that casts a neurotic shadow over his life. In seeking to rid himself of the shadow he gets drawn into an affair and pulled into the orbit of the intelligence services. Both provide replacement shadows that haunt him and need resolution, and the story is essentially his journey to come to terms with his neuroses and find a steady and secure path. That journey, however, is complex and dangerous, both in Vienna prior to the Great War and during the war itself. Boyd fills Rief’s world with an interesting set of characters and social situations, and there is a strong sense of social history and place. The prose is evocative and the plot unfolds in a steady, unhurried pace, and is nicely balanced with a subtle sense of intrigue. And yet, for some reason, I wasn’t entirely convinced or captivated by the story; it seemed to lack something that left it a bit hollow -- a mix of direction, tension, urgency, a lead character one identified with or rooted for as opposed to simply viewing, I think. Overall, then, an enjoyable, atmospheric read that lacked an edge.