Sweet Caress

by William Boyd

Amory Clay remembers her father only really for being absent. Instead she turns to her uncle for inspiration and affection. When her time at boarding school is cut short, she follows him into photography and goes to work picturing society women.

Amory wants more than a steady income. Her desire to push boundaries, though, achieves a name and reputation for her work that makes life difficult.

Nevertheless she perseveres and remains true to her ideals and travels to Europe and later Vietnam to record war atrocities. Her single-mindedness wins her loyal friends and lovers.

This is a straightforward account of an imagined life lived to the full. I was completely enthralled by Amory, her relationships, her achievements, her decisions.

The narrative has been interspersed with photographs, supposedly those taken by Amory, but in reality collected by the author over years, given to him by friends and randomly purchased from junk shops. It's great to read of Boyd's reasoning for doing so, and it's a wonderful marketing tool for the book. I'm not sure they added to the story for me. I was too critical of the pictures he chose - they weren't interesting enough, or well taken, in my opinion for a professional photographer. But I couldn't help but ponder them as they interrupted the text.

William Boyd said in one interview that, since 1987, he has been 'trying to make fiction seem so real you forget it is fiction'. And I read somewhere else (though I can't find it again...!) that he thinks there is more truth in fiction than in fact (I really must find the actual quote!).

I loved this book. I don't think it's perfect, but I loved it.


Review date: September 2015
Sweet Caress by William Boyd