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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 Sep 20, 2001
ISBN: 9780062126665
List price: $7.99
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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.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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".read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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".
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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.
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