Thursday, March 29, 2007


I've just finished William Boyd's most recent novel, Restless. Boyd seems to have morphed into John Le Carré in this story of spies and cold-hearted spy masters in much the same way, now I come to think of it, as Le Carré went a little Boydy in The Constant Gardener and its story of expats in Africa. Talk about transcending the genre but since I'm an admirer of both authors I don't really mind if they want to switch.
I have seen William Boyd a couple of times, once at the Salon du Livre in Bordeaux in an excruciatingly tedious round table on the subject of the English novel, with Derek Raymond a.k.a. Robin Cook (Old Etonian accent in English, Aveyron peasant accent in French), Beryl Bainbridge and another author whose name escapes me (patrician, old, English). And once in the departures lounge at Gatwick, bound for his house in South-West France, around the time Armadillo came out.
Le Carré I have only ever seen on French television, interviewed by Bernard Pivot. He speaks good French which isn't perhaps surprising if he really was a spy before he became an author. One of the things that I definitely didn't buy in Restless was the ease with which the main character speaks Russian at home, learns French as a child and then English as an adult to such perfection that she can pass as English in England — even to her husband and daughter — and American in America.
Here are three sentences from Restless that took my fancy:
1. Agents were "crows"; "shadows" were people who followed you — it was, as she later learned, a kind of linguistic old-school tie, or Masonic handshake.
Because I spend a lot of my working life making sure that people can do other linguistic handshakes properly.
2. of those girl-women who made me feel like a strapping milkmaid or an Eastern-bloc pentathlete.
Because it elicited that yes-I-recognise-that feeling
3. She...lowered her trousers and shitted into the fast water.
Because I can't be the only one who thinks that past tense just sounds wrong.


Ms Mac said...

That past tense is defintely wrong. I asked the boys and they told me.

Also, most men I meet make me feel like a strapping milkmaid or Eastern Bloc pentathlete.

Wendz said...

It's shat. Not shitted. Gah!

I have never felt like a strapping anything, happy to say. I don't do strapping or athletic very well you see. (More like slobby blobby couch potato.)

Why is the first WV easy and the second one a long, nearly illegible string of distorted letters? Geez.

Lesley said...

Ms Mac & Wendz: So it's not just me then. Vindicated.