„…it’s the complications that have engaged me and made me feel alive“ p. 447
Strongwilled, photography-loving, impetuous, sardonic - Amory is born the first child of three.
Traumatized, absent, socially aware, alienated – after his World War I experiences, her father will try to kill her.
Photography-loving, fashionable, familial, similarly sardonic - her uncle will teach her how every person may be described with just four adjectives (sic!). He gives her the first camera. Many others will follow while Amory will ever strive to try and improve her art, while life – and love – sometimes rather just seem to happen. „Time is a racehorse, eating up the furlongs as it gallops towards the finish line.“ p 226
This fictional biography of this completely made-up woman will come with first-person narrator Amory, posing as a memoir written down by her in 1977/78, when she is in her early seventies. The majority of the story, though, will be historical, covering the ‘Great War‘ - traumatization of Amory‘s father, her start as photographer in London, still impeded by the fact that she is a woman, the Berlin nightlife in the Weimar-era, her transition to New York and back to London, twice, the next World War, Paris, Scotland, Vietnam,….
Author William Boyd manages to give ‘flesh“ to that personality, time and class, in a way that makes the reader end up checking whether Amory has really been invented only. The large number of pictures strewn in to portray what Amory did portray help this effect a great deal and make up a large part oft he book’s charm. The novel comes in “books“ to go along with the diary-type setup, the chapters will be named after the places.
“Sweet Caress“ of 2015 (German translation „Die Fotografin“ of 2016) is an easy read, rather a light summer novel than the Pulitzer Price maybe, without neglecting that it offers a nice number of pointed remarks, like when Amory decides about how to react to her lover’s future plans about the two of them: „Inertia is a very underrated state of mind. … If you feel you have to make a decision then decide not to make a decision. Let time pass. Do nothing.“ p 158 She noticably is a woman of her time and age, the Scottish author put a great deal of effort to this (I followed up on some interviews on how he does research for like two! years and accumulates often masses of books to be what he calls a realistic writer cf. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byiBqMpcdSE )
Talking about literature prices, I found it compelling what a broad span of works Boyd comes along with: from Booker shortlisted to James Bond! Still, back to this one, there were some lengths in “Sweet Caress“ and some moments when, though I did still enjoy the style, did still like the characters and how realistic everything was – but wondered on the ‘why‘: What does Boyd want to tell us with this book, why is he going all that way, what does the book want to convey, apart from being a compelling read. The final part will give you something of a clue, something of the the ‘why‘, at least, for Amory herself, for sure – but then, there were still those lengthier moments before. A good solid 4 star – read for me!