William Boyd is 100% reliable. Waiting for Sunrise is another thought provoking thriller which does more than just tease the reader into rushing through to the gripping climax. Boyd creates credible characters, and builds complex stories around their relationships. My most recent Boyd was Brazzaville Beach; I didn’t like it as much as some of his other work – Any Human Heart for example. Waiting for Sunrise was very good though.
The setting is Austria in the early years of the twentieth century. Lysander, the novel’s “hero”, a Shakespearean actor suffering from anorgasmia, meets Freud, and a wild English girl, Hettie, who soon cures his problem, but lands him with others that are much more dangerous. Escaped from Austria with the help of embassy staff, Lysander finds himself, at the outbreak of the war, managing illegal aliens in the wilds of Wales, before being recruited as a spy by those very same diplomats. He returns to London, where we witness the logic of his detective work and meet characters engrossed in managing the allied armies in Europe.
The novel skips from third to first person narrative – his psychoanalyst encourages Lysander to keep an autobiographical diary as part of his cure. This narrative trick allows us to see the character, his thoughts and motives, but hides the narrative twists so that events are at times shocking, often surprising and always full of interest. It also allows Boyd to explore, in quite a leisurely fashion, the life, loves and mores of this character in this time, and to build to a clever denouement that just leaves you wanting to read more about the adventures of this shady character.