The Oldie - - FICTION -

Vik­ing, 371pp, £18.99, Oldie price £12.84 inc p&p

For DJ Tay­lor in Literary Re­view, the devil of this novel is in the de­tail at the ex­pense of the plot, which sim­ply ‘crashes on’. In an ef­fort to main­tain his rep­u­ta­tion, Boyd in­dulges in a ‘minute and nighrap­tur­ous ab­sorp­tion in de­tail’, rang­ing from in­tri­cate de­scrip­tions of what his main fe­male pro­tag­o­nist, Lika, is wear­ing to ‘metic­u­lously doc­u­mented’ recita­tions of the meals eaten. ‘There is some­times a sense of re­search be­ing overzeal­ously un­packed,’ he con­cluded, waspishly, while in­sist­ing the book is

‘The devil of this novel is in the de­tail at the ex­pense of the plot’

nev­er­the­less ‘hugely en­ter­tain­ing’. Alexan­der Lar­man in the

Guardian had only praise for this ‘beau­ti­fully writ­ten and deeply hu­mane ac­count of its pro­tag­o­nist’s jour­ney through a spe­cific his­tor­i­cal pe­riod: fin-de-siè­cle Scot­land, France and Rus­sia’. For Laura Free­man in the Times, the main prob­lem was Boyd’s ob­ses­sion with breasts. There’s ‘heavy breasted’ Senga, the ‘dark brown nip­ples’ of a Span­ish girl in a Paris brothel, Lika with her ‘small, heavy breasts’, and the ‘wide flat breasts’ of yet an­other hap­less fe­male char­ac­ter. For both Free­man and Jo­hanna Thomas-corr, writ­ing in the Evening Stan­dard, Lika sim­ply ‘never takes life’. ‘Brodie is blinded by love,’ wrote Free­man. ‘But what does he love about her? She is daz­zling – what else? If Lika had been more fleshed out – for­get about cup size – it would be eas­ier to un­der­stand why Brodie goes to the ends of the earth for her love. As it is, she is a blind­ingly beau­ti­ful, rather bor­ing woman, with re­ally great breasts.’

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