William Boyd is one of those English novelists who seems to simmer under the surface of fame and motors along an acquired taste and favorite of readers who love great writing. I was introduced to him by Charles Dubow (who’s first novel, Indiscretion, is to be published next month) in the 1990s when we were colleagues at Forbes.com and ever since I’ve pressed Boyd’s novels onto my friends who appreciate the good stuff.
Boyd sets his books in the past — he seems most comfortable in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — and his protagonists, generally Englishmen, are wonderfully vivid characters, artists and dreamers beset by the world.
His latest, which I am still reading, is Waiting for Sunrise, set in Vienna before World War One. a story of a young man seeking “the talking cure” for his inability to achieve an orgasm.
The first Boyd novel I read, one that remains one of my favorites, is The New Confessions, the story of John James Todd, survivor of the trenches of France, cameraman, silent film director and auteur, who sets out to audaciously film Jean Jacques Rousseau’s “Confessions”. From WWI to Hollywood, it remains the best novel about cinema I have read.