It is 1968. In Paris, students are rioting. The Vietnam war continues while in America, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King have been assassinated. This is the timeframe of Trio, the very readable latest novel from William Boyd. Set in Brighton where a film crew is shooting Emily Bracegirdle’s Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon, the leading lady, Anny Viklund, is in bed with her co-star, pop singer Troy Blaze. The director’s wife, Elfrida Wing, is partaking of vodka from her secret stash in a Sarsons white vinegar bottle, rather than getting on with writing her next novel. The producer, Talbot Kydd, lays in his bath and tries to remember the dream he was having about a young man, pale and limber.
The story follows these three characters, each of which is living a life of pretence. Talbot has a wife in Chiswick and a secret apartment in Primrose Hill. Elfrida, once lauded as ‘the next Virginia Woolf’, writes lists of book titles but no more. Anny has an unfortunate taste in older men and when her ex-husband goes on the run, she finds herself questioned by the FBI. Day by day, Boyd weaves together the twists and turns of these three people, set against the filming of Ladder, the title of which incidentally no one understands. Sub-plots abound. When the film’s accountant warns Talbot that someone is stealing film stock, he employs an eccentric local detective. Meanwhile Elfrida, in search of the real Virginia, traces Woolf’s footsteps on the last day of her life. Anny, who cushions herself from the real world with a succession of uppers and downers, seems impossibly young. The film is the motif which unites the three but we see their individual character arcs develop in unexpected ways.
An entertaining quick read from a master of characterisation and humour who draws a recognisable picture of Brighton’s contradictions, style and sleaziness by the sea. Boyd has been a favourite of mine since A Good Man in Africa in 1981 and Trio reminds me of his early novels which showed the ability to combine a light comic touch with a darker, deeper emotional storyline.
BUY THE BOOK
… and try the first paragraph of Armadillo.
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TRIO by William Boyd #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4XP via @SandraDanby