REVIEW: Trio by William Boyd

In brief: In 1968, a film is being made in Brighton. For three people linked with the film, their secrets are about to come into the open.

The good: Detailed characters and setting.

The not-so-good: None of the characters are truly likeable.

Why I chose it: Haven’t read enough of William Boyd’s work. Thanks to Penguin for the copy.

Year: 2020

Pages: 343

Publisher: Viking (Penguin)

Setting: Mainly England

Rating: 8 out of 10

William Boyd is one of those authors I always mean to read more of, but when I check my reading spreadsheets (yes, I have them) there are never as many of his novels there as I expect. So in an attempt to rectify that, I jumped on Trio shortly after release. The story is very different to the last novel I read by him (Love is Blind) but that’s a good thing. Historical fiction, James Bond novels…William Boyd is very talented and Trio further demonstrates his repertoire.

Trio is set in 1968, on a film set in England’s Brighton, and follows three people linked with the production. Talbot is the producer, who is dealing with not only the usual production issues, but his business partner is trying to thwart a deal that is worth a lot of money. He’s also trapped in a marriage but is secretly gay. Elfrida is the wife of the director, a novelist with writer’s block and a heavy drinking problem. She is trying to think of new writing ideas beyond the title, but nobody likes them. Meanwhile, her husband is cheating on her with one of the film’s writers. Anny is the star of this odd film, an American import who has brought a lot of baggage. Her ex-husband is wanted by the CIA and has escaped to England, where he begs for money. Anny has her own issues, with a boyfriend in France and new love with her co-star. How did her own life get in such a mess?

The story is told in the third person from the perspective of each of the main characters. Despite working on the same project, the characters rarely interact. The focus is on their life outside the film. When the reader sees them on set, they are all at their best and most capable. Perhaps the film is a symbol of putting your best face forward when everything else is crumbling. None of the characters seem to get much right in their own lives and the path to redemption is littered with bad choices and wrong routes. All the characters are looking for happiness, but none really find jubilation. There is a sense of surrender and acceptance rather than the happy ending. None of the characters were incredibly likeable for me. I enjoyed reading about Talbot the most as his life had the most layers. I found Elfrida rather pathetic as her judgement was severely clouded by her alcoholism. Anny’s run of bad choices and her youth had me more sympathetic, but her immaturity in dealing with her issues was a little annoying. However, Boyd’s characters are all carefully crafted with great detail and there is much to discuss about their motivations and actions. The story is well written with excellent dialogue and there would be a lot for a book club to discuss here. While not my favourite Boyd, it still demonstrates his skill in creating memorable characters.

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