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Vienna, 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor in town seeking psychotherapy for a troubling ailment of a sexual nature, becomes caught up in a feverish affair with a beautiful, enigmatic woman. When she goes to the police to press charges of rape, however, he is stunned, and his few months of passion come to an abrupt end. Only a carefully plotted escape—with the help of two mysterious British diplomats—saves him from trial.

But the frenzied getaway sets off a chain of events that steadily dismantles Lysander's life as he knows it. He returns to a London on the cusp of war, hoping to win back his onetime fiancée and banish from memory his traumatic ordeals abroad, but Vienna haunts him at every turn. The men who helped coordinate his escape recruit him to carry out the brutal murder of a complete stranger. His lover from Vienna shows up nonchalantly at a party, ready to resume their liaison. Unable to live an ordinary existence, he is plunged into the dangerous theater of wartime intelligence—a world of sex, scandal, and spies, where lines of truth and deception blur with every waking day. Lysander must now discover the key to a secret code that is threatening Britain's safety, and use all his skills to keep this murky world of suspicion and betrayal from invading every corner of his life.

Moving from Vienna to London's West End, from the battlefields of France to hotel rooms in Geneva, Waiting for Sunrise is a mesmerizing journey into the human psyche, a beautifully observed portrait of wartime Europe, a plot-twisting thriller, and a literary tour de force.

Topics: Love, Vienna, 1910s, Spies, World War 1, Freud, and Scandal

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062126665
List price: $10.99
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Intriguing spy story with lots of interesting characters and exotic locations. The story got off to a slow start, but became compelling once Rief was on the run from Austria. At the end I thought one of the bad guys got away.more
I think William Boyd is the only author who writes spy novels I can follow. What he does so well here, as well as elsewhere, is to select an unfamiliar setting (in this case Vienna just before the start of WWI) and bring it to life with stories of human events as relevant then as they are now. This story is well paced – dramatic events are nicely spaced and it glides effortlessly from place to place, each one invested with the right amount of detail to make it real. Once we reached the end, I wasn’t sure I totally understood what I was meant to understand, the only reason this wasn’t a five star. But what a great writer, I cannot imagine he could write a book I wouldn’t want to read.more
I stuck with this for 320 pages (of a total of 428) before waving the white flag, and reading the rest of the plot on Wikipedia. I read my first William Boyd novel, Brazzaville Beach, in the 1990s, having been reliably informed that it was wonderful. It wasn't. It was competent and perfectly fine but not the masterpiece I was expecting. I was inspired to read "Waiting For Sunrise" as, once again, I'd read a plethora of positive reviews, and because the story is set in an era that I find fascinating.The plot is long and meandering, switching locations, as often as the book switches genres. The story moves from Vienna, to Sussex, to London, to Geneva and back to London - whilst the plot jumps from psychoanalysis, to tortured relationships, family dramas, trench warfare and spying. It would all have made more sense if the book just focussed on one theme. There are sections of the book that I enjoyed: the opening section, set in Vienna, felt well researched if a little improbable. Unfortunately Boyd's writing is pedestrian with far too many tedious descriptions of rooms and personal appearance.I am baffled by the praise heaped on this book. It is profoundly average with odd moments of interest and excitement. For anyone interested in reading a superb book on spying during World War One, then look no further than W. Somerset Maugham's wonderful "Ashenden". A book based on first hand experience and far more thoughtful, insightful and credible than "Waiting For Sunrise".more
Another great spy story from William Boyd, I love his characterisation and the description of places is so real. Good read, though I do always feel I'm missing something below the surface of the text!more
This is my second William Boyd book, and like Restless, the execution of what sounded like an interesting premise did not live up to the promise of a gripping read. The early chapters in Vienna got me excited to see how everything would unfold, but as things did unfold, it turned out there was not much to it. The references to parallelism and Freud didn’t really materialize into anything. The drama with Hetti Bull was ‘meh.’ The espionage was boring.more
A lot of similarities between this and AHH - the diary, the sexual focus/hangups, the lone young man caught in a war. It had a bit more of a linear plot since there was an espionage angle to things, but the beginning was very slow and I wondered how Lysander, who couldn’t seem to make one good decision, would survive as a spy or spy hunter, which is what he ends up being. I didn’t care about Lysander like I did Logan Mountstuart and that’s kind of a let-down. Lysander leaves a light impression and gets some sympathy at times, but he isn’t an attractive person in the way that LMS was. I think when he admitted he falsely accused another boy of molesting him, and other than possibly giving him a temporary sexual dysfunction, he didn’t suffer any consequences for his lie or betrayal. So I decided he was basically a craven liar with poor judgement who got what he deserved a lot of the time. After a while the descriptions and musings of his sexual encounters got pretty irritating. But I guess musing on what every woman looks like naked is the norm for most men. The belated spy story while it started out interesting and explosive, ends in a whimper with not much in the way of consequences or explanation. Why did the traitor betray his country? How much did catching him improve the situation? Eh, I still don’t really know. There was a lot of build-up with very little pay off and a lot of dangling people and situations. As good as Boyd is, he’s no le Carre. And speaking of no pay-off - what’s with Hettie? I really wanted her to pay for what she did to Lysander in Vienna and her whole general attitude with him. Granted, he walked into it again and again (musta been them amazing tits that get so much press), but damn if she wasn’t a conniving jerk. I was hoping she’d be part of the set-up (which again, wasn’t explained all that well...lots of innuendo and suspicion and no resolution) and she’d have to take her lumps, but no, she slides off to “New Mexico, wherever that is”. Bah.Tons of atmosphere and characterization though, which is really his strength. I felt what it was like to be in Vienna and London during the early part of the 20th century. The excitement and confusion and huge social upheavals that left everyone feeling afloat; as if they didn’t belong to their world anymore. The first major modern war with all its nasty armaments and brutality. Effectively and evocatively done. I’ve said it before about other writers like Michael Chabon and T.C. Boyle, I think Boyd is one of those writers who shouldn’t try to work to a specific plot. He should write books with a character that connects a series of events that don’t have bearing on one another, but shape his life or outlook. A see-what-happens-next kind of thing. A character sketch of a whole life. A looking back, like in Restless, or a moving through time as in Any Human Heart. The two books with definitive outcomes and plots of the four that I’ve read now, have been the weakest. I like Boyd though and will keep reading his books, even when one is weak, there’s still merit and I always enjoy them.more
I love William Boyd, and this was a good read but not one of his best books. Character development, place descriptions, plot development were all excellent - but somehow I don't think he's totally comfortable with the espionage genre. I never was quite clear on how all the characters he kept running into in different settings fit into the plot, or what the motivation of the traitor, when finally revealed, was. Very unbelievable ending. Four stars nevertheless because it was well-written and engrossing.more
The story begins when a young actor meets a young woman in the waiting room of his psychoanalyst in Vienna in 1913. From there we're taken on an eventful ride through two years of relationships, treachery, espionage and intruige. This is a very entertaining and engaging tale. I enjoyed every page of it.more
I like William Boyd and this was enjoyable, although not outstanding. It's what you expect, WWI setting, London, Vienna, intrigue, love and passion. I think there's actually a decent conspiracy drama in here -- I'm not entirely sure because at some point I couldn't follow it anymore. I got a little lost at which things were supposed to be coincidences that later turn out to be clues in the conspiracy, and which things were supposed to be plain old coincidences. I think there's a little snicker there, because Freud's theories are a big theme in the book, so sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I have found this in Boyd's work in general, but rather more pronounced here, the odd tendency to write passionate scenes as if he's working from a checklist. Describe breasts. Check. Describe nipples. Check. Describe thighs. Check. The love scenes are like Mad Libs. Grade: B- with standards.Recommended: It's really not bad, especially for fans of this time period. However, if you are only going to read one Boyd novel, it should still be Any Human Heart.more
One of Boyd's best. Intriguing twists and turns on every page. Ending was a bit confusing.more
This is a book about identity. The central character remains elusive and changeable despite being written from a third person point of view, a first person point of view, psychoanalysed and twice observed from another first person viewpoint at the beginning and end of the work. It is not certain if the narrator is likeable and this appears to be part of the overall point. Dramatically, the story is well plotted but structurally and thematically it is something of a collision between worlds - a pre-war Viennese drama and a Le Carre style spy thriller. Perhaps because of this, and perhaps because the idea that identity is malleable is not enough of an insight to carry a book, the work left me feeling as if I had been brought on a journey to nowhere and left there without a ticket home.more
It is William Boyd. It is part spy novel, part a tale of one man's personal development. You don't really need to be told therefore, this is a good book, pacy, interesting and well written. No, isn't quite up to the stand of Any Human Heart, The New Confessions or Restless, but it is still a cut above most things you'll read this year. Enjoy.more
This my first acquaintance with the work of William Boyd. I grabbed it from the Amazon Vine program based on the blurb about psychotherapy in Vienna during the time of Freud and the promise of sex, scandal and spies. Psychotherapy provides only a minor role but a recurring theme in the novel. Boyd does deliver a complicated tale of espionage during World War I, although don't expect a James Bond/Ian Fleming style thriller. `Waiting for Sunrise' is more of a Le Carré story featuring amateur spy hunter Lysander Rief.`Waiting for Sunrise' is the story of two years in the life of Lysander Rief, 1913 through 1915. So much occurs during these years that it feels more like half a lifetime. Lysander lives in England but his saga begins in Vienna at age 27. We accompany him to Italy, the battlefields of France during the Great War to Geneva and back to England. The characters introduced in the first 12 pages of the book form the structure upon which the remainder of the novel evolves.Reviews mention deception as a theme. The obvious application of deception is that Lysander is an actor whose father was a famous actor. Using his acting skills, Lysander becomes a government agent charged with uncovering a traitor. A more subtle application of deception is the use of lies and ruses to evade consequences by characters lacking the ability to accept responsibility for their actions.Following this theme is the concept of "Parallelism" espoused by Lysander's psychotherapist. This "therapy" requires Lysander to use "fonction fabulatrice" to deal with problematic events by imagining new realities. In other words, make up new facts to deal with difficult occurrences.Parallelism enables one to avoid responsibility, guilt or blame. For example, when Lysander was 14, his mother found him lying in the garden of his mother's estate with his pants down to his knees exposing his flaccid penis after having masturbated and fallen asleep. Upset, she said to him, "What happened, darling?" In response, Lysander pulled up his trousers, curled up in a ball and began to cry uncontrollably. He sobbed, "Tommy Bledlow [the gardener's son] did this to me." As a result, both the gardener and his son were dismissed immediately without pay and references and lost their cottage on the estate, despite Tommy's truthful protest of innocence.The psychotherapist used parallelism to convince Lysander that the actual event was that he had fallen asleep in the garden on a sunny day, woken up late and returned to the mansion to have tea with his mother in the drawing room, with an apology for his tardiness. Similarly, "parallelism" later enables Lysander to avoid responsibility and guilt for causing serious injury and death to and innocent man and boy laying telephone wire when he threw a grenade on the battlefield.Meanwhile, the psychotherapist, himself, appears to be somewhat of a hoax. In the doctor's waiting room Lysander meets a fellow patient, Hettie, later to become his lover. Hettie is frantic to see the doctor, without an appointment, because he is "treating" her with injections of cocain and she is overdue. Further, Hettie, not the doctor, "cures" Lysander's problem of inability to ejaculate. She surreptitiously reads Lysander's file and makes him her "project." By luring him to her studio to pose nude for a sculpture, Hettie performs her therapy on Lysander quite successfully.Virtually, every character in `Waiting for Sunrise' is able to lie and inflict serious harm to others with little or no consequences. To detail these actions marked by my fifteen bookmarks would certainly spoil the novel, so just be aware.Personally, I found most of this story so unrealistic and incredible that finishing the book was an effort. This is not to demean the writing ability and literary talent of Boyd. "Waiting for Sunrise" was just not my cup of tea.more
Lysander Reif is a young British actor visiting Vienna on the eve of World War I hoping that psychoanalysis will help cure a sexual problem. While in the analysists waiting room he meets two figures that will change his life; Munro, an employee at the British consulate and Hettie Bull, a beautiful British artist. He soon starts a passionate affair with the unpredictable Hettie which leads to a quick exit from Vienna with the help of Munro. Back in Britain at the beginning of the war, Lysander enlists and again comes to the attention of Munro and his confederates. The British war office discovers a leek of military secrets so they order Lysander to use his acting skills to discover the mole.William Boyd is a prolific author, although I had never read anything he had written before. He is a very skilled writer who uses many points of view to tell the story. He starts the novel with the reader as the observer and then switches to the normal third person omniscient point of view. Then he changes to Lysander's point of view with a journal that the psychoanalyst asks Lysander the keep, which he names "Autobiographical Investigations." Lysander fills it with poetry, observations, and conversations written in the form of play scripts. The storyline is very intricate with many threads woven together by the end. It is a spy thriller where you don't know who to trust. All the characters are well developed. You wonder how the people Lysander has meet work into the plot. In the end he finally figures out who he can trust and gets his life back on track, but he has become a completely different person from the conventionally handsome man who visited Vienna in 1913.more
Readers of William Boyd’s new novel Waiting for Sunrise had best be prepared to play amateur detective because this one is filled with enough twists, turns, false leads, hints, and clues to make anyone’s head spin. Best of all, it is both an admirable piece of historical fiction and a whole lot of fun.We first meet British actor Lysander Rief in 1913 Vienna, to which he has temporarily relocated in order to be treated by a Sigmund Freud disciple with an office only a short distance from the master himself. Although Lysander’s psychoanalyst has modified some of Freud’s methods, he proves to be particularly adept at “curing” the sex-related problem that Lysander brings him – so successful, in fact, that Lysander, while still in treatment, initiates a torrid affair with a married woman he first meets in the doctor’s waiting room.The affair will end badly, forever changing the lives of Lysander and Hetty Bull, his lover. One will flee Vienna barely a step ahead of the law; the other will still be in Vienna as the ugliness of World War I begins. One will be forced by British intelligence to take on the role of soldier/spy, a spy in search of a traitor who is costing thousands of British lives by leaking intelligence to the enemy. The other continues the tortured and destructive life that made analysis necessary in the first place. Unfortunately for both, their paths will cross again in London.Waiting for Sunrise is long on atmosphere and character development. Boyd builds his main characters (in particular Lysander, Bull, and Lysander’s mother) gradually, layer by layer, until the reader comes to know them as well from their innermost thoughts as from their actions. If, as is often said, literary fiction tends to focus more on style and the emotional depth of characters than on plot, Waiting for Sunrise handily qualifies as such. This is not to say, however, that the book has no plot, because Boyd’s intricately rewarding plot, if it is to be followed, demands the reader’s full attention from first page to last.Lysander’s pursuit of the mole inside British intelligence will leave him second-guessing everything he thinks he knows about himself and his own background. When he becomes suspicious of those closest to him, he begins to wonder if he is just a player in someone else’s spy game. But this game could end up having more disastrous consequences for Lysander than for the man he pursues.Rated at: 4.0more
William Boyd’s latest novel, Waiting for Sunrise, effortlessly mixes genres to create an outstanding, gripping, and highly pleasurable reading experience. This novel will certainly not disappoint Boyd’s legions of international fans who expect the best from this master literary craftsman. Waiting for Sunrise is primarily an atmospheric thriller set in Vienna, London, and Geneva from 1913 to 1915; there are also brief scenes in the front line trenches of World War I. But this is a thriller wrapped within a complex espionage tale, and all that enveloped inside a sophisticated and intellectually stimulating psychological character study with serious universal themes about the human condition. I should also mention that there’s a lots of steamy sex scenes and themes that are integral to the plot. Indeed, it all adds up to a saucy and riveting page-turner. As usual, and as an added bonus to his highly educated and well-read literary audience, this latest book contains a goodly number of literary and academic references that challenge the mind, delight the intellect, and provide irony and humor.Like two of his previous recent novels (Any Human Heart and Restless), this one deals with an inexperienced everyday sort of person who is forced by unusual circumstances to become a spy. In this new book, the central character is Lysander Rief, a second-rate actor from a famous acting family who travels to Vienna in 1913 to seek a cure for an embarrassing sexual problem. There he undergoes a treatment with one of Freud’s disciples and stumbles into a passionate affair with a femme fatale sculptor who he meets in the psychiatrist’s office. The affair takes some unusual turns, and he is eventually unjustly accused of rape and seriously looking at the prospect of ten years in prison. Fortunately, the British Government helps to disentangle Lysander from his legal predicament by assisting in his covert flight from Vienna. In return, Lysander is forced to put his acting talents to use as a spy to pay back his debt to the War Office. His job is to help find a traitor, code-named Andromeda, who is sending valuable military information to the enemy from deep within the British high command. At the beginning of the book, Lysander is introduced as a not-very-good actor, recently seen on the London stage as the "second leading man" in a third-rate play. But, once he is forced to use his acting talents as a spy, we find that he has a natural gift for disguises, deceit, and deception. When circumstances require, he also manages the psychological mettle to torture another human being in order to get information vital to guarantee his own life and further the well-being of his Government’s interests. As a matter of fact, he finds his calling on the stage of life, and we are all left to ponder if we, too, might succeed if history came calling.What is best about this book is the author’s close attention to atmospheric detail. Boyd’s craft is at its finest when he is recreating the sights, sounds, smells and feel of life in Vienna, London, and Geneva at the beginning of World War I. Since the book is a thriller, it is easy to want to read quickly through these details in order to get on with the action. My recommendation is to hold back and savor the details. In fact, this is the type of novel that is so full of atmospheric, psychological, and intellectual detail that, upon finishing it, some readers may immediately want to turn around and reread it again. That’s the beauty of Boyd! Savor him.Any new book by William Boyd is an event. This one is pure pleasure. Don’t miss it![Caveat: if you are looking merely for another action-packed thriller espionage novel, you might be thrown off by how carefully Boyd creates a vivid sense of place and takes great pains to give his characters depth and life. Although this novel will, no doubt, hold your interest, you may be thrown off by how slow the action moves at times when Boyd is attending to details.]more
What a fantastic year this is turning out to be, as far as books are concerned. This is certainly another winner from Boyd. It bears many of the characteristics of his most successful works - the use parallel texts to allow for different perspectives, the gradual uncovering of characters' secret histories and even (briefly) wrongful imprisonment vaguely reminiscent of "Any Human Heart".The novel opens in 1913 with principal character Lysander Rief, a moderately successful actor who is just beginning to make a name for himself on the London stage, living in Vienna where he has travelled for the purpose of accessing psychoanalytical help with an embarrassing and difficult "condition". He is persuaded by his analyst, Dr Bensimon, to maintain a diary or commonplace book, as a means for cathartic chronicling of his progress. While attending one of his appointments with Dr Bensimon Rief encoutners Hester "Hettie" Bull with whom he promptly falls deeply in love, despite his hitherto plangent letters to his fiance Blanche who has remained in London. As luck would have it at Dr Bensimon's surgery he also encounters Alwyn Munro who is a special attache at the British Embassy in Vienna. This acquaintance will shortly prove very fortuitous as things are about to go very wrong.After an unexpectedly adventurous departure from Vienna Rief finds himself back in London where he tries to resume his acting career, before becoming immersed in Britain's war effort. After having signed up to the East Sussex Light Infantry, and spent some time guarding an internment camp, his former acquaintances catch up with him, and he finds himself reassigned to very different activities, with wholly unexpected consequences.As ever with William Boyd, the plot is entirely believable and the characters immensely plausible. He seems to go from strength to strength!more
British author William Boyd’s new novel is his latest in an extended list of books. But, as advertised by Jonathan Burnham of Harper-Collins Publishers, new readers of the work of Mr. Boyd (like I am) can pick it up and feel like they have discovered a brand new writer. The novel is carefully structured and written expansively. By expansive I mean Mr. Boyd does not take short cuts in his descriptions of the history and settings of the story that takes place in the UK and Europe.The first half of Waiting for Sunrise takes place in Austria just before the onset of WWI when a young British actor, Lysander, visits a psychiatrist for treatment of a troublesome sexual dysfunction. In Dr. Bensimon’s waiting room, he meets a female patient of the doctor, Hettie Bull, and in short order develops a sexual relationship with her. At the suggestion of the psychiatrist, Lysander begins to write “Autobiographical Investigations” to keep track of his progress during therapy and his relationship with Hettie chronicling daily activities, thoughts, and emotions. Throughout the novel, Lysander writes in this diary and the reader gets insights into the character’s psychological changes as the plot unfolds.Lysander terminates his therapy when his major symptom is cured by Dr. Bensimon and Hettie. Of course, rapid and complete cures are rare and legal complications develop because of his relationship with Hettie who is married to a quick-to-anger artist. Lysander’s legal problems are avoided with the help of two men associated with the British Embassy in Vienna. Few things happen without unintended consequences, and Lysander finds himself obligated with the two men when they visit him at his army unit in Great Britain in WWI. Lysander is recruited, he has no choice, to help track down a traitor whose activities may cause the deaths of thousands of British troops in Europe.Mr. Boyd’s novel is seamless in style and structure. He uses an all-knowing narrator for most of the action and environmental descriptions of early 20th Century British and European events. He uses the first person narration of Lysander’ Autobiographical Investigations for a personal subjective perspective on the exciting international wartime experience. This combination of realism and constructivism is a nice illustration of “Parallelism” that Dr Bensimon uses as part of his therapy. The objective description of the patient’s events and actions can be seen as parallel with personal subjective observations. One’s conscious experience is a combination of the two views. The psychiatrist’s philosophical conviction is that the two parallel paths can meet causing an interaction of real and imagined. Ultimately, a person can rewrite his personal history and put a more positive view on traumatic events. With enough practice in the talking cure and work in a diary the past can be experienced as positive memories in the present.I recommend this novel for readers who enjoy good historical novels with an interesting plot, unique characters, nice descriptions of daily life, and plausible interpretations of the psychological development of thoughtful adults.more
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Reviews

Intriguing spy story with lots of interesting characters and exotic locations. The story got off to a slow start, but became compelling once Rief was on the run from Austria. At the end I thought one of the bad guys got away.more
I think William Boyd is the only author who writes spy novels I can follow. What he does so well here, as well as elsewhere, is to select an unfamiliar setting (in this case Vienna just before the start of WWI) and bring it to life with stories of human events as relevant then as they are now. This story is well paced – dramatic events are nicely spaced and it glides effortlessly from place to place, each one invested with the right amount of detail to make it real. Once we reached the end, I wasn’t sure I totally understood what I was meant to understand, the only reason this wasn’t a five star. But what a great writer, I cannot imagine he could write a book I wouldn’t want to read.more
I stuck with this for 320 pages (of a total of 428) before waving the white flag, and reading the rest of the plot on Wikipedia. I read my first William Boyd novel, Brazzaville Beach, in the 1990s, having been reliably informed that it was wonderful. It wasn't. It was competent and perfectly fine but not the masterpiece I was expecting. I was inspired to read "Waiting For Sunrise" as, once again, I'd read a plethora of positive reviews, and because the story is set in an era that I find fascinating.The plot is long and meandering, switching locations, as often as the book switches genres. The story moves from Vienna, to Sussex, to London, to Geneva and back to London - whilst the plot jumps from psychoanalysis, to tortured relationships, family dramas, trench warfare and spying. It would all have made more sense if the book just focussed on one theme. There are sections of the book that I enjoyed: the opening section, set in Vienna, felt well researched if a little improbable. Unfortunately Boyd's writing is pedestrian with far too many tedious descriptions of rooms and personal appearance.I am baffled by the praise heaped on this book. It is profoundly average with odd moments of interest and excitement. For anyone interested in reading a superb book on spying during World War One, then look no further than W. Somerset Maugham's wonderful "Ashenden". A book based on first hand experience and far more thoughtful, insightful and credible than "Waiting For Sunrise".more
Another great spy story from William Boyd, I love his characterisation and the description of places is so real. Good read, though I do always feel I'm missing something below the surface of the text!more
This is my second William Boyd book, and like Restless, the execution of what sounded like an interesting premise did not live up to the promise of a gripping read. The early chapters in Vienna got me excited to see how everything would unfold, but as things did unfold, it turned out there was not much to it. The references to parallelism and Freud didn’t really materialize into anything. The drama with Hetti Bull was ‘meh.’ The espionage was boring.more
A lot of similarities between this and AHH - the diary, the sexual focus/hangups, the lone young man caught in a war. It had a bit more of a linear plot since there was an espionage angle to things, but the beginning was very slow and I wondered how Lysander, who couldn’t seem to make one good decision, would survive as a spy or spy hunter, which is what he ends up being. I didn’t care about Lysander like I did Logan Mountstuart and that’s kind of a let-down. Lysander leaves a light impression and gets some sympathy at times, but he isn’t an attractive person in the way that LMS was. I think when he admitted he falsely accused another boy of molesting him, and other than possibly giving him a temporary sexual dysfunction, he didn’t suffer any consequences for his lie or betrayal. So I decided he was basically a craven liar with poor judgement who got what he deserved a lot of the time. After a while the descriptions and musings of his sexual encounters got pretty irritating. But I guess musing on what every woman looks like naked is the norm for most men. The belated spy story while it started out interesting and explosive, ends in a whimper with not much in the way of consequences or explanation. Why did the traitor betray his country? How much did catching him improve the situation? Eh, I still don’t really know. There was a lot of build-up with very little pay off and a lot of dangling people and situations. As good as Boyd is, he’s no le Carre. And speaking of no pay-off - what’s with Hettie? I really wanted her to pay for what she did to Lysander in Vienna and her whole general attitude with him. Granted, he walked into it again and again (musta been them amazing tits that get so much press), but damn if she wasn’t a conniving jerk. I was hoping she’d be part of the set-up (which again, wasn’t explained all that well...lots of innuendo and suspicion and no resolution) and she’d have to take her lumps, but no, she slides off to “New Mexico, wherever that is”. Bah.Tons of atmosphere and characterization though, which is really his strength. I felt what it was like to be in Vienna and London during the early part of the 20th century. The excitement and confusion and huge social upheavals that left everyone feeling afloat; as if they didn’t belong to their world anymore. The first major modern war with all its nasty armaments and brutality. Effectively and evocatively done. I’ve said it before about other writers like Michael Chabon and T.C. Boyle, I think Boyd is one of those writers who shouldn’t try to work to a specific plot. He should write books with a character that connects a series of events that don’t have bearing on one another, but shape his life or outlook. A see-what-happens-next kind of thing. A character sketch of a whole life. A looking back, like in Restless, or a moving through time as in Any Human Heart. The two books with definitive outcomes and plots of the four that I’ve read now, have been the weakest. I like Boyd though and will keep reading his books, even when one is weak, there’s still merit and I always enjoy them.more
I love William Boyd, and this was a good read but not one of his best books. Character development, place descriptions, plot development were all excellent - but somehow I don't think he's totally comfortable with the espionage genre. I never was quite clear on how all the characters he kept running into in different settings fit into the plot, or what the motivation of the traitor, when finally revealed, was. Very unbelievable ending. Four stars nevertheless because it was well-written and engrossing.more
The story begins when a young actor meets a young woman in the waiting room of his psychoanalyst in Vienna in 1913. From there we're taken on an eventful ride through two years of relationships, treachery, espionage and intruige. This is a very entertaining and engaging tale. I enjoyed every page of it.more
I like William Boyd and this was enjoyable, although not outstanding. It's what you expect, WWI setting, London, Vienna, intrigue, love and passion. I think there's actually a decent conspiracy drama in here -- I'm not entirely sure because at some point I couldn't follow it anymore. I got a little lost at which things were supposed to be coincidences that later turn out to be clues in the conspiracy, and which things were supposed to be plain old coincidences. I think there's a little snicker there, because Freud's theories are a big theme in the book, so sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I have found this in Boyd's work in general, but rather more pronounced here, the odd tendency to write passionate scenes as if he's working from a checklist. Describe breasts. Check. Describe nipples. Check. Describe thighs. Check. The love scenes are like Mad Libs. Grade: B- with standards.Recommended: It's really not bad, especially for fans of this time period. However, if you are only going to read one Boyd novel, it should still be Any Human Heart.more
One of Boyd's best. Intriguing twists and turns on every page. Ending was a bit confusing.more
This is a book about identity. The central character remains elusive and changeable despite being written from a third person point of view, a first person point of view, psychoanalysed and twice observed from another first person viewpoint at the beginning and end of the work. It is not certain if the narrator is likeable and this appears to be part of the overall point. Dramatically, the story is well plotted but structurally and thematically it is something of a collision between worlds - a pre-war Viennese drama and a Le Carre style spy thriller. Perhaps because of this, and perhaps because the idea that identity is malleable is not enough of an insight to carry a book, the work left me feeling as if I had been brought on a journey to nowhere and left there without a ticket home.more
It is William Boyd. It is part spy novel, part a tale of one man's personal development. You don't really need to be told therefore, this is a good book, pacy, interesting and well written. No, isn't quite up to the stand of Any Human Heart, The New Confessions or Restless, but it is still a cut above most things you'll read this year. Enjoy.more
This my first acquaintance with the work of William Boyd. I grabbed it from the Amazon Vine program based on the blurb about psychotherapy in Vienna during the time of Freud and the promise of sex, scandal and spies. Psychotherapy provides only a minor role but a recurring theme in the novel. Boyd does deliver a complicated tale of espionage during World War I, although don't expect a James Bond/Ian Fleming style thriller. `Waiting for Sunrise' is more of a Le Carré story featuring amateur spy hunter Lysander Rief.`Waiting for Sunrise' is the story of two years in the life of Lysander Rief, 1913 through 1915. So much occurs during these years that it feels more like half a lifetime. Lysander lives in England but his saga begins in Vienna at age 27. We accompany him to Italy, the battlefields of France during the Great War to Geneva and back to England. The characters introduced in the first 12 pages of the book form the structure upon which the remainder of the novel evolves.Reviews mention deception as a theme. The obvious application of deception is that Lysander is an actor whose father was a famous actor. Using his acting skills, Lysander becomes a government agent charged with uncovering a traitor. A more subtle application of deception is the use of lies and ruses to evade consequences by characters lacking the ability to accept responsibility for their actions.Following this theme is the concept of "Parallelism" espoused by Lysander's psychotherapist. This "therapy" requires Lysander to use "fonction fabulatrice" to deal with problematic events by imagining new realities. In other words, make up new facts to deal with difficult occurrences.Parallelism enables one to avoid responsibility, guilt or blame. For example, when Lysander was 14, his mother found him lying in the garden of his mother's estate with his pants down to his knees exposing his flaccid penis after having masturbated and fallen asleep. Upset, she said to him, "What happened, darling?" In response, Lysander pulled up his trousers, curled up in a ball and began to cry uncontrollably. He sobbed, "Tommy Bledlow [the gardener's son] did this to me." As a result, both the gardener and his son were dismissed immediately without pay and references and lost their cottage on the estate, despite Tommy's truthful protest of innocence.The psychotherapist used parallelism to convince Lysander that the actual event was that he had fallen asleep in the garden on a sunny day, woken up late and returned to the mansion to have tea with his mother in the drawing room, with an apology for his tardiness. Similarly, "parallelism" later enables Lysander to avoid responsibility and guilt for causing serious injury and death to and innocent man and boy laying telephone wire when he threw a grenade on the battlefield.Meanwhile, the psychotherapist, himself, appears to be somewhat of a hoax. In the doctor's waiting room Lysander meets a fellow patient, Hettie, later to become his lover. Hettie is frantic to see the doctor, without an appointment, because he is "treating" her with injections of cocain and she is overdue. Further, Hettie, not the doctor, "cures" Lysander's problem of inability to ejaculate. She surreptitiously reads Lysander's file and makes him her "project." By luring him to her studio to pose nude for a sculpture, Hettie performs her therapy on Lysander quite successfully.Virtually, every character in `Waiting for Sunrise' is able to lie and inflict serious harm to others with little or no consequences. To detail these actions marked by my fifteen bookmarks would certainly spoil the novel, so just be aware.Personally, I found most of this story so unrealistic and incredible that finishing the book was an effort. This is not to demean the writing ability and literary talent of Boyd. "Waiting for Sunrise" was just not my cup of tea.more
Lysander Reif is a young British actor visiting Vienna on the eve of World War I hoping that psychoanalysis will help cure a sexual problem. While in the analysists waiting room he meets two figures that will change his life; Munro, an employee at the British consulate and Hettie Bull, a beautiful British artist. He soon starts a passionate affair with the unpredictable Hettie which leads to a quick exit from Vienna with the help of Munro. Back in Britain at the beginning of the war, Lysander enlists and again comes to the attention of Munro and his confederates. The British war office discovers a leek of military secrets so they order Lysander to use his acting skills to discover the mole.William Boyd is a prolific author, although I had never read anything he had written before. He is a very skilled writer who uses many points of view to tell the story. He starts the novel with the reader as the observer and then switches to the normal third person omniscient point of view. Then he changes to Lysander's point of view with a journal that the psychoanalyst asks Lysander the keep, which he names "Autobiographical Investigations." Lysander fills it with poetry, observations, and conversations written in the form of play scripts. The storyline is very intricate with many threads woven together by the end. It is a spy thriller where you don't know who to trust. All the characters are well developed. You wonder how the people Lysander has meet work into the plot. In the end he finally figures out who he can trust and gets his life back on track, but he has become a completely different person from the conventionally handsome man who visited Vienna in 1913.more
Readers of William Boyd’s new novel Waiting for Sunrise had best be prepared to play amateur detective because this one is filled with enough twists, turns, false leads, hints, and clues to make anyone’s head spin. Best of all, it is both an admirable piece of historical fiction and a whole lot of fun.We first meet British actor Lysander Rief in 1913 Vienna, to which he has temporarily relocated in order to be treated by a Sigmund Freud disciple with an office only a short distance from the master himself. Although Lysander’s psychoanalyst has modified some of Freud’s methods, he proves to be particularly adept at “curing” the sex-related problem that Lysander brings him – so successful, in fact, that Lysander, while still in treatment, initiates a torrid affair with a married woman he first meets in the doctor’s waiting room.The affair will end badly, forever changing the lives of Lysander and Hetty Bull, his lover. One will flee Vienna barely a step ahead of the law; the other will still be in Vienna as the ugliness of World War I begins. One will be forced by British intelligence to take on the role of soldier/spy, a spy in search of a traitor who is costing thousands of British lives by leaking intelligence to the enemy. The other continues the tortured and destructive life that made analysis necessary in the first place. Unfortunately for both, their paths will cross again in London.Waiting for Sunrise is long on atmosphere and character development. Boyd builds his main characters (in particular Lysander, Bull, and Lysander’s mother) gradually, layer by layer, until the reader comes to know them as well from their innermost thoughts as from their actions. If, as is often said, literary fiction tends to focus more on style and the emotional depth of characters than on plot, Waiting for Sunrise handily qualifies as such. This is not to say, however, that the book has no plot, because Boyd’s intricately rewarding plot, if it is to be followed, demands the reader’s full attention from first page to last.Lysander’s pursuit of the mole inside British intelligence will leave him second-guessing everything he thinks he knows about himself and his own background. When he becomes suspicious of those closest to him, he begins to wonder if he is just a player in someone else’s spy game. But this game could end up having more disastrous consequences for Lysander than for the man he pursues.Rated at: 4.0more
William Boyd’s latest novel, Waiting for Sunrise, effortlessly mixes genres to create an outstanding, gripping, and highly pleasurable reading experience. This novel will certainly not disappoint Boyd’s legions of international fans who expect the best from this master literary craftsman. Waiting for Sunrise is primarily an atmospheric thriller set in Vienna, London, and Geneva from 1913 to 1915; there are also brief scenes in the front line trenches of World War I. But this is a thriller wrapped within a complex espionage tale, and all that enveloped inside a sophisticated and intellectually stimulating psychological character study with serious universal themes about the human condition. I should also mention that there’s a lots of steamy sex scenes and themes that are integral to the plot. Indeed, it all adds up to a saucy and riveting page-turner. As usual, and as an added bonus to his highly educated and well-read literary audience, this latest book contains a goodly number of literary and academic references that challenge the mind, delight the intellect, and provide irony and humor.Like two of his previous recent novels (Any Human Heart and Restless), this one deals with an inexperienced everyday sort of person who is forced by unusual circumstances to become a spy. In this new book, the central character is Lysander Rief, a second-rate actor from a famous acting family who travels to Vienna in 1913 to seek a cure for an embarrassing sexual problem. There he undergoes a treatment with one of Freud’s disciples and stumbles into a passionate affair with a femme fatale sculptor who he meets in the psychiatrist’s office. The affair takes some unusual turns, and he is eventually unjustly accused of rape and seriously looking at the prospect of ten years in prison. Fortunately, the British Government helps to disentangle Lysander from his legal predicament by assisting in his covert flight from Vienna. In return, Lysander is forced to put his acting talents to use as a spy to pay back his debt to the War Office. His job is to help find a traitor, code-named Andromeda, who is sending valuable military information to the enemy from deep within the British high command. At the beginning of the book, Lysander is introduced as a not-very-good actor, recently seen on the London stage as the "second leading man" in a third-rate play. But, once he is forced to use his acting talents as a spy, we find that he has a natural gift for disguises, deceit, and deception. When circumstances require, he also manages the psychological mettle to torture another human being in order to get information vital to guarantee his own life and further the well-being of his Government’s interests. As a matter of fact, he finds his calling on the stage of life, and we are all left to ponder if we, too, might succeed if history came calling.What is best about this book is the author’s close attention to atmospheric detail. Boyd’s craft is at its finest when he is recreating the sights, sounds, smells and feel of life in Vienna, London, and Geneva at the beginning of World War I. Since the book is a thriller, it is easy to want to read quickly through these details in order to get on with the action. My recommendation is to hold back and savor the details. In fact, this is the type of novel that is so full of atmospheric, psychological, and intellectual detail that, upon finishing it, some readers may immediately want to turn around and reread it again. That’s the beauty of Boyd! Savor him.Any new book by William Boyd is an event. This one is pure pleasure. Don’t miss it![Caveat: if you are looking merely for another action-packed thriller espionage novel, you might be thrown off by how carefully Boyd creates a vivid sense of place and takes great pains to give his characters depth and life. Although this novel will, no doubt, hold your interest, you may be thrown off by how slow the action moves at times when Boyd is attending to details.]more
What a fantastic year this is turning out to be, as far as books are concerned. This is certainly another winner from Boyd. It bears many of the characteristics of his most successful works - the use parallel texts to allow for different perspectives, the gradual uncovering of characters' secret histories and even (briefly) wrongful imprisonment vaguely reminiscent of "Any Human Heart".The novel opens in 1913 with principal character Lysander Rief, a moderately successful actor who is just beginning to make a name for himself on the London stage, living in Vienna where he has travelled for the purpose of accessing psychoanalytical help with an embarrassing and difficult "condition". He is persuaded by his analyst, Dr Bensimon, to maintain a diary or commonplace book, as a means for cathartic chronicling of his progress. While attending one of his appointments with Dr Bensimon Rief encoutners Hester "Hettie" Bull with whom he promptly falls deeply in love, despite his hitherto plangent letters to his fiance Blanche who has remained in London. As luck would have it at Dr Bensimon's surgery he also encounters Alwyn Munro who is a special attache at the British Embassy in Vienna. This acquaintance will shortly prove very fortuitous as things are about to go very wrong.After an unexpectedly adventurous departure from Vienna Rief finds himself back in London where he tries to resume his acting career, before becoming immersed in Britain's war effort. After having signed up to the East Sussex Light Infantry, and spent some time guarding an internment camp, his former acquaintances catch up with him, and he finds himself reassigned to very different activities, with wholly unexpected consequences.As ever with William Boyd, the plot is entirely believable and the characters immensely plausible. He seems to go from strength to strength!more
British author William Boyd’s new novel is his latest in an extended list of books. But, as advertised by Jonathan Burnham of Harper-Collins Publishers, new readers of the work of Mr. Boyd (like I am) can pick it up and feel like they have discovered a brand new writer. The novel is carefully structured and written expansively. By expansive I mean Mr. Boyd does not take short cuts in his descriptions of the history and settings of the story that takes place in the UK and Europe.The first half of Waiting for Sunrise takes place in Austria just before the onset of WWI when a young British actor, Lysander, visits a psychiatrist for treatment of a troublesome sexual dysfunction. In Dr. Bensimon’s waiting room, he meets a female patient of the doctor, Hettie Bull, and in short order develops a sexual relationship with her. At the suggestion of the psychiatrist, Lysander begins to write “Autobiographical Investigations” to keep track of his progress during therapy and his relationship with Hettie chronicling daily activities, thoughts, and emotions. Throughout the novel, Lysander writes in this diary and the reader gets insights into the character’s psychological changes as the plot unfolds.Lysander terminates his therapy when his major symptom is cured by Dr. Bensimon and Hettie. Of course, rapid and complete cures are rare and legal complications develop because of his relationship with Hettie who is married to a quick-to-anger artist. Lysander’s legal problems are avoided with the help of two men associated with the British Embassy in Vienna. Few things happen without unintended consequences, and Lysander finds himself obligated with the two men when they visit him at his army unit in Great Britain in WWI. Lysander is recruited, he has no choice, to help track down a traitor whose activities may cause the deaths of thousands of British troops in Europe.Mr. Boyd’s novel is seamless in style and structure. He uses an all-knowing narrator for most of the action and environmental descriptions of early 20th Century British and European events. He uses the first person narration of Lysander’ Autobiographical Investigations for a personal subjective perspective on the exciting international wartime experience. This combination of realism and constructivism is a nice illustration of “Parallelism” that Dr Bensimon uses as part of his therapy. The objective description of the patient’s events and actions can be seen as parallel with personal subjective observations. One’s conscious experience is a combination of the two views. The psychiatrist’s philosophical conviction is that the two parallel paths can meet causing an interaction of real and imagined. Ultimately, a person can rewrite his personal history and put a more positive view on traumatic events. With enough practice in the talking cure and work in a diary the past can be experienced as positive memories in the present.I recommend this novel for readers who enjoy good historical novels with an interesting plot, unique characters, nice descriptions of daily life, and plausible interpretations of the psychological development of thoughtful adults.more
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