Three Great Novelists – None of them Dead Yet

I have just finished William Boyd’s Waiting for Sunrise. A really great novel.

England is stupendously lucky in having three male novelists at the peak of the art form: William Boyd, Sebastian Faulks and Ian McEwan.

William Boyd’s first novels – A Good Man in Africa etc – were fun but hardly great art. But with books like Armadillo and Any Human Heart he absolutely moved into the top league. Sebastian Faulks was there pretty much from the start with Birdsong (the recent television adaptation of which was well done, and would have been even better if they had not left out the most moving bits, and in particular the ending) and also Ian McEwan, although in his case it seems to me that his later books, and in particular Saturday and On Chesil Beach, are the most wonderful of all.

It is odd how this pans out.  There is a curious echo of Elizabeth I’s reign, which saw a fantastic peak of perfection in lute music from Dowland, Cutting, Rossiter et al. I have been listening to that stuff with increasing admiration ever since I bought Julian Bream’s excellent collection of it on vinyl back in about 1970.

But back to the novel: what about the women? That is a bit harder, because there has not yet emerged any female novelist of the class of the Iris Murdoch.  Rose Tremain, obviously, is Premier League.  But as for the others? Lots of good ones.  But rather harder to identify the stand-outs.

 

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Three Great Novelists – None of them Dead Yet

  1. A reviewer whose opinions I trust, described this book as ‘just the right side of laborious ‘ Somehow I can imagine him being right .

  2. ………..and when I read that description I felt instantly that it could equally apply to certain people one knows , who could and probably do feel the same way about one , which all things considered is not too distant from being a compliment .

  3. “Laborious”? Well, I suppose so, if you think listening to Dowland or Bach is laborious. Or having played in a decent rugby match (now sadly, a long past pleasure). Or scuba diving on a tropical reef (we can still do that). Or meeting new people, who have interesting things to say about life. Or playing music in a band to a real audience. Or riding a serious motorbike in the hills. Or (bit of a personal favourite here) cross-examining liars in court. Personally, I think that if you are tired of William Boyd, you are probably pretty tired of life. But read the book, and tell me what you think about it.

    • You misunderstand the thrust . The delight of the comment was the NOT that it [ and all the other things you mention – some yes to me deeply lugubrious since you care to mention them ] was laborious – but that it was on the RIGHT SIDE of laborious !! Being the right side of laborious saves it and all the rest you mention being dubbed as such and instead is/are worthy of merit – praise even ……………. but laboriousness lurks not far away and casts its shadow . Not unlike Gordon Brown and his famous clunking fist .

  4. and Hilary Mantel ? only woman to win the Man Booker prize TWICE – and regarded here as the best British prose writer ever …… have you read either ?

  5. I have tried Hilary Mantel, but so far found her unreadable. Must try again. I told you that the women are harder to rate than the men!

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