Sweet Caress - Life, full and unadulterated
Sweet Caress is a fictional autobiography of a woman who lived an interesting life during tumultuous times.
Amory Clay was born in 1908 in England and died in 1983 and so experienced or was at least affected by two world wars, the great depression, the War in Vietnam and the social and sexual revolution of the sixties.
As a professional photographer Amory chronicles the changing times giving author William Boyd the opportunity to place her in the middle of the action which enhances the interesting and complicated personal life of his protagonist.
And interesting it is. Her career includes photographing members of high society in London to taking candid shots of the underside of pre-World War II Berlin. She's in New York shooting fashion then back to London working for a news magazine. She's on the front lines in Europe in 1944 and in Vietnam in 1967.
During that time she has an affair with her married boss, a relationship with a French writer, marries a Scottish Lord and has twin daughters.
Sweet Caress is about life - full and unadulterated. Love, heartbreak, birth, death, motherhood, family - it's a rich mix and Boyd keeps the narrative moving hitting the highs and lows, the successes and failures all the while giving us the insights of his remarkable heroine.
His writing is seamless and precise, the characters complicated and appealing, the settings vivid.
Boyd is able to capture the uncertainty of life, how events and other people shape our destiny as much or more than we consciously do ourselves. How seemingly chance meetings and random acts chart our lives. How man plans and God laughs.
Boyd has interspersed photographs and captions throughout this book perhaps to give the reader the experience of reading a journal. However I found these pictures unnecessary. Rather than enhancing the novel they proved disconcerting for two reasons.
I create my own image of the characters I'm reading about. Suddenly seeing them in black and white and having them look nothing like I imagined was off-putting. The second reason is the photographs are very amateur and of poor quality in concept and execution - hardy the work of a professional which, for me, eroded Amory's credibility. It was a good idea that didn't work.