Blinded and bedazzled with her beauty, Brodie Moncur is lost to Lika from the very beginning.
Quotes from the book:
“It didn’t matter how well you thought you knew someone, he realised. You saw what you wanted to see or you saw what that other person wanted you to see. People were opaque; another person was a mystery.”
“Hazard the haphazard.”
Brodie Moncur is a talented young musician/piano-tuner working for piano-makers, Channon & Co in Edinburgh. He is transferred to the Paris branch of the company, where he meets and falls for a Russian soprano (Lika) who is in a relationship with talented pianist John Kilbarron. As he is drawn further into company of the triangle (Lika, John and John’s brother, Malachi), he realizes how much danger he is in, and as he travels to St. Petersburg, Nice, and Trieste, and finally to the Andaman Islands, he continues to pursue Lika.
“There are moments when the plot feels overwrought and doesn’t quite convince; Malachi’s psychology, for example, is too glibly explained, and the last few lines are unnecessary and overly neat. 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. In its poignant closing scenes, the book balances the sad and ordinary randomness of life – its bathos even – with a kind of transcendence born out of Brodie’s longing. It’s a finely judged performance: a deft and resonant alchemy of fact and fiction, of literary myth and imagination.” Full review: The Guardian
“William Boyd is a beautiful writer, capturing settings, characters, and the turn-of-the-century world in elegant and spare prose. He weaves a plot as ancient as it is modern, with family, love, intrigue, betrayal, debilitating illness, and the triste of loss.” Full review: Washington Independent Review of Books