Book Review: Love Is Blind – William Boyd

Love Is Blind - William Boyd

About The Book

When Brodie is offered a job in Paris, he seizes the chance to flee Edinburgh and his tyrannical clergyman father, and begin a wildly different new chapter in his life. In Paris, a fateful encounter with a famous pianist irrevocably changes his future – and sparks an obsessive love affair with a beautiful Russian soprano, Lika Blum. Moving from Paris to St Petersburg to Edinburgh and back again, Brodie’s love for Lika and its dangerous consequences pursue him around Europe and beyond, during an era of overwhelming change as the nineteenth century becomes the twentieth.

Love is Blind is a tale of dizzying passion and brutal revenge; of artistic endeavour and the illusions it creates; of all the possibilities that life can offer, and how cruelly they can be snatched away. At once an intimate portrait of one man’s life and an expansive exploration of the beginning of the twentieth century, Love is Blind is a masterly new novel from one of Britain’s best loved storytellers.

My Review

Love is Blind is the story of Brodie Moncur, son of a violent and alcoholic clergymen, eldest sibling of a brood of children and talented piano tuner. When the opportunity to live and work in Paris arises he grabs it with both hands, leaving the dark gloom of Peebles and Edinburgh behind. It is here that he meets Lika, she is the girlfriend of John Kilbarron, a famous pianist who employs Brodie to be his own personal piano tuner and he and Lika are instantly attracted to one another. The book travels through France, to Russia and much further afield, taking the reader on a tour of the world at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century.

I love William Boyd’s writing and Any Human Heart is one of my most favourite books, but I really struggled with Love Is Blind. I am going to hold my hands up and say that my reading of it was a little disjointed, I had a migraine for five days and couldn’t read a thing and then I had some books I had to read for Blog Tour commitments so I dipped in and out of it and this may have had an impact on my overall impression of the book. Saying that though, for those five days where I wasn’t reading I didn’t miss the book at all although I desperately missed reading.

I think I struggled because I didn’t really like Brodie or Lika and I am still unsure what I thought of Brodie as a character. I suppose that he was presented as a fully rounded man who is neither good nor bad and who is capable of both great and awful things but I really struggled to connect with him. In a book where all of the action takes place around one man it makes it difficult to empathise or feel fear or pity at key times in the story. Saying that though, the plot is wonderful and the storytelling is brilliant. It is intricate and clever and I was carried away by the engrossing tale of love and revenge, so much so that I read the second half of the book in one-sitting.

I love a book that spans generations and timelines and for the most part this book scratched that itch. I would have liked to have known more about the places he was living though, the social and political backgrounds would have added more depth perhaps. He spends a lot of time in Russia and mixes in very exalted circles but I couldn’t get a feel for the political situation there and my rudimentary knowledge of Russian history tells me it was an interesting time period. I suppose I felt that despite his moving around Europe, I couldn’t get a feel for where he was. It was only the descriptions of the food he was eating that provided any depth – and what descriptions they were, completely mouth-watering at times!

William Boyd really excels at wonderful dialogue, conversations between characters never feel jarring and he uses letters from Brodie to his family back home to keep the action moving well. However, at times things felt plodding and some characters appeared who seemed to have no bearing on the story whatsoever. The intricate dance between Brodie and the Kilbarron brothers, John and Malachi, is filled with tension and these unnecessary characters  seemed to take away from rather than add to the what will happen next element. My favourite part of the book was this relationship between these three men and there are moments of brilliance and power that kept me turning the pages.

Despite my difficulties with the book I still think that William Boyd is an astonishing writer and overall I did like Love Is Blind (I have given it 3 stars) but I will say one thing — there seems to be an obsession with breasts. So many boobs. I was sick of reading about them. Under dressing gowns, pressed flat beneath a blouse, in the bedroom of a brothel – it felt wholly unnecessary and a little juvenile at times to be honest. This is a book about how overpowering love can be and how it can make you do reckless things and whilst I understood Brodie’s visceral and primal reaction to Lika it felt incredibly incongruous on occasion. I am not a prude in the slightest and have absolutely no issues with sex scenes in books, but the constant references and observations felt grubby and made me feel more than a little uncomfortable.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher, Penguin Books for a copy of Love Is Blind in return for an honest review. Love Is Blind was published on the 20th September and can be bought here.




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