Sweet Caress

Sweet Caressby William Boyd

Sweet Caress is the memoir of a fictional photographer, Amory Clay. In a life that spans some of the most momentous events of the twentieth century, from the decadence of 1920s Berlin to the horrors of the Vietnam War. And in between, her struggles with the various men in her life, all of whom inevitably let her down.

But no matter how strong-willed and determined she may be, carving a career in a male-dominated society is a challenge for any woman and in Amory Clay, William Boyd has created a character who has all the strength needed to succeed. Her character comes across as a homage to all those incredibly strong women who have helped to shape our modern society.

At one point I forgot that I was reading a work of fiction and actually started to believe that this wonderful woman had actually existed. And I suppose in a way she did. Maybe not as an individual, but in the shape of the many women whose lives provided the inspiration for the character.

Boyd is a great writer who knows how to reel the reader in and keep them hooked. Unfolding as it does over a long lifetime, Sweet Caress may lack the pace of books like “Ordinary Thunderstorms”, but it more than makes up for in depth and character development. There is also the selection of old photographs interspersed throughout the book that help to give a feeling of authenticity to the tale. Each image provides a hook on which Boyd rather skilfully hangs elements of the photographer’s tale.

Sweet Caress is a great book from one of the country’s most respected contemporary novelist. I found it compelling and at times quite moving. It may not be a classic, but it is certainly one that deserves recognition for both its content and style.