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Love is Blind by William Boyd

Love is Blind (original 2018; edition 2018)

by William Boyd (Author)

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988181,550 (4.13)4
Title:Love is Blind
Authors:William Boyd (Author)
Info:Viking (2018), 384 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle, Currently reading

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Love Is Blind: A novel by William Boyd (2018)



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Love is Blind is a straightforward historical novel, set at the turn of the 19th century. The narrative is chronological, starting in 1894 when young Brodie Moncur escapes from his tyrannical father to take up an opportunity as a piano tuner in Paris. This era was a golden age for piano manufacturing and Brodie’s employer Channon wants to compete with Steinway pianos, so he sends Brodie, his most able employee, to set up the branch there, second in command to Channon’s son Calder. Through a clever scheme to promote the pianos via concert pianists, Brodie meets John Kilbarron (the Scottish Liszt) and fatally, falls for John’s lover Lika Blum, a beautiful Russian soprano. When things go wrong in the Paris branch, Brodie strikes out on his own, and ends up in St Petersburg where John Kilbarron has a wealthy patron who doesn’t seem to mind paying for a piano tuner with not much to do except have assignations with the lovely Lika.
The novel is basically a twin study of obsession. Brodie is obsessed with Lika, and Brodie’s rival/s are obsessed with vengeance. Despite his background as the son of a preacher, Brodie’s love life has consisted of transactional sex with prostitutes but he falls passionately in love with the enigmatic Lika. Everything he does from this point on is predicated on what is obviously a doomed relationship. The reader can see what Brodie cannot, which is that she is evasive about her past, flirts with Brodie behind Kilbarron’s back, but obviously isn’t as keen on Brodie as he is on her. And #SpoilerAlert it all ends badly.
IMO Love is Blind is a little long for itself, yet some elements seem unexplained. I never worked out why Brodie is berated by his father Malky for his dark skin, and kept waiting for a revelation about parental infidelity which (unless I missed it) never came. I also didn’t understand why Malky’s tirades in his sermon were drawn from biblical passages that didn’t exist. And where was the explanation for Brodie’s brother turning into a violent drunk? OTOH some segments were unnecessarily drawn out, and there’s some rather gratuitous writing about the sex habits of people on the Andaman Islands.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/02/03/love-is-blind-by-william-boyd/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Feb 3, 2019 |
Loved this novel, but am hesitant to give it 5 stars because of its final segment. The entire section with the ethnologist & his on the Andaman Islands felt like an unnecessary supplement that added nothing to the story, and if anything detracted from the rhythm of the novel. ( )
  thiscatsabroad | Jan 3, 2019 |
Read it in three sittings. Even shed tears at the end. All Boyd's books affect me in some visceral fashion beginning with Any Human Heart, recommended by an English teacher I know from AOL-J-Land. I have loved every one. ( )
  Alphawoman | Jan 1, 2019 |
William Boyd is an author I always feel I should read more of. So I decided to read his latest book, Love is Blind, as soon as it was released. That’s a decision that didn’t disappoint. This story is simple – the life of a young man – but its effects are great. It really got under my skin, to the point where I really thought that Brodie Moncur was a real person. It’s detailed, powerful with emotion and heartbreaking.

Brodie Moncur sticks out amongst his brothers and sisters as he’s the only one to escape their small Scottish village and tyrannical father. He works as a piano tuner in Edinburgh thanks to some good luck from an initial benefactor. But after that, it’s all Brodie’s determination. His boss sends him to Paris to work on improving the piano business’ reputation abroad. This is where Brodie shines – getting a famous pianist to use the company’s pianos for all performances. It’s this achievement that also sets him up for life as the eventual enemy of a number of people. Brodie falls in love with Lika Blum, a Russian opera singer. But Lika is not free to be his and much time is spent sneaking around. Brodie has other issues too, but when a pretence of saving face goes badly wrong, he and Lika flee. Will their pasts catch up with them and will they be able to remain together?

Love is Blind is richly detailed in exploring the facets of Brodie’s life and thoughts. The only part I didn’t particularly take to was the descriptions of tuning the piano (I’m not particularly interested in their inner workings, although I did think of Brodie when I walked past a badly out of tune piano yesterday in the mall). Brodie came alive for me like a real life historical figure, as his character is so detailed (right down to his preferred brand of cigarettes, where they are manufactured and where you can buy them). Some might find that kind of detail tedious, but I lapped it up. It made the different cities that Brodie visited (like St Petersburg) vivid in my mind. It’s a rich story of life at a changing time, at the end of the 1800s and into the early 1900s.

In addition to the love affair between Brodie and Lika, there is a great deal of exploration regarding relationships. There’s the fractured relationship of Brodie and his father followed by the breakdown in relationship between Brodie and brother Callum. Business relationships also are built, then broken (such as that with piano great John Kilbarron – a relationship that is never truly on an even keel and once it begins to wither, breaks in spectacular circumstances). Revenge is also explored – revenge for secret discovery and revenge for betrayal. The last part of the story lays much of this to bed as the story slows down. It feels like everything is settling into place (much unlike Brodie’s unsettled life to date, moving countries and changing circumstances more often than most would expect now, let alone back then). The ending is terrifically sad and poignant but somehow fits.

Overall, Love is Blind is a story of love, set against an exciting, moving backdrop of characters and countries.

Thank you to Penguin for the copy of this book. My review is honest.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Oct 21, 2018 |
Son of a firebrand preacher, Brodie Moncur has managed to escape the manse unlike his sibling. A talented piano tuner, he works for a manufacturer in Edinburgh and when the opportunity comes to move to Paris Brodie jumps at it. One of his ideas to promote Channon pianos is to sponsor a leading pianist and this brings Brodie into the circle of a wild Irishman. Falling in love with the mistress of the impresario Brodie travels to St Petersburg and back to France with love and tragedy dogging his footsteps.
I have long been a fan of Boyd's writing and it is wonderful to see how his narratives have progressed over the past 30 years. Here the excesses of life are tempered by the heartfelt feelings Brodie has for Like and the doomed nature of their relationship. Doomed because of her past and his health yet all handled with such sensitivity that it seems a natural progression of the story. This is an outstanding writer producing yet another outstanding novel and sometimes I feel that Boyd isn't given the credit due for his works. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Oct 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
If this makes the novel sound off-puttingly cerebral, it should also be said that is hugely readable, entirely engaging and frequently funny; it can be enjoyed on its own terms as a great yarn. After a dip in which he produced some well-written, commercially successful but slightly anonymous thrillers, Boyd is back on a form few of his contemporaries can match... this fine, touching and clever book is the best thing he’s written since and deserves similar adulation.
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Brodie Moncur is a brilliant piano tuner, as brilliant in his own way as John Kilbarron--"The Irish Liszt"--the pianist Brodie accompanies on all of his tours from Paris to Saint Petersburg, as essential to Kilbarron as the pianist's own hands. It is a luxurious life, and a level of success Brodie could hardly have dreamed of growing up in a remote Scottish village, in a household ruled by a tyrannical father. But Brodie would gladly give it all up for the love of the Russian soprano Lika Blum: beautiful, worldly, seductive--and consort to Kilbarron. And though seemingly doomed from the start, Brodie's passion for her only grows as their lives become increasingly more intertwined, more secretive, and, finally, more dangerous--what Brodie doesn't know about Lika, and about her connection to Kilbarron and his sinister brother, Malachi, eventually testing not only his love for her but his ability, and will, to survive.
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