Love is Blind

Love is Blind

Love is Blind is William Boyd's sweeping, heart-stopping new novel. Set at the end of the 19th century, it follows the fortunes of Brodie Moncur, a young Scottish musician, about to embark on the story of his life. When Brodie is offered a job in Paris, he seizes the chance to flee Edinburgh and his tyrannical clergyman father, and begin a wildly different new chapter in h...

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Title:Love is Blind
Author:William Boyd
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Edition Language:English

Love is Blind Reviews

  • Andrew Smith

    William Boyd writes books you can get lost in. In

    and

    so rich is his mix of fact and fiction that he almost convinced me he was writing about the life of a real people. He wasn't of course, but I became so immersed in the lives of Logan Mountstuart and John James Todd that I really found it hard to accept I was reading a piece if fiction. I’d lived the life of these characters and at the end of both books I experienced a tearful moment when I reached the final

    William Boyd writes books you can get lost in. In

    and

    so rich is his mix of fact and fiction that he almost convinced me he was writing about the life of a real people. He wasn't of course, but I became so immersed in the lives of Logan Mountstuart and John James Todd that I really found it hard to accept I was reading a piece if fiction. I’d lived the life of these characters and at the end of both books I experienced a tearful moment when I reached the final page. Here he manages to do it again, this time we are introduced to a piano tuner named Brodie Moncur. We’re close to the end of the 19th century and Brodie is 24 years old. He works for the Channon Piano Company at their Edinburgh showroom and we follow him through the ups and down of his working life, track his physical health, meet his large family and travel as far and wide as France, Switzerland, Russia and the little known Andaman Islands (in the Bay of Bengal if you're wondering). But most of all we get to share his obsession with a Russian opera singer called Lika. I’ll warn you in advance, it’s an emotional journey.

    It's soon recognised that Brodie possesses an energy and an entrepreneurial spirit that would serve the company well in helping grow its new shop in Paris and he is dispatched forthwith. But before he goes, he returns to the small rural town in which he grew up to visit his family. His father is the local clergyman – and a real Hellfire preacher he is, too – and he demonstrates an unexplained animus towards Brodie. After a testing couple of days spent with his large family he’s glad to make his escape. Once in Paris he meets resistance from the shop manager, the son of the company owner, but he manages to push through a number of his ideas which includes the recruitment of a top piano player to publicise their brand. It will cost money and it's a bit of a gamble, but Brodie is convinced it’ll bring significant dividends. It's at this point that John Kilbarron (the ‘Irish Listz’) enters the picture… together with his lover, Lika.

    Boyd brilliantly brings the whole thing to life with his rich descriptions of time and place and razor sharp dialogue. Each character is vividly described – none more so than Kilbarron’s sinister brother, Malachi - and even the minor figures seem to be original and interesting. And there are sufficient historical references and instances of casual name dropping to make the whole thing

    real.

    As the book progresses the tension level fluctuates. There is one brilliant set piece I won't go into, but it’s so well done I sure my eyes were bulging out of my head as I read it. If you get to read this book you’ll know this event when you reach it. But if I have a bone to pick it’s that the dance between Brodie and the Kilbarron brothers does seem to go on a little too long and, in fact, there are a few sections that did feel unnecessarily protracted. It all comes out in the wash though and by the end I was feeling that my investment in wading through the slower sections had paid off. By this point I really did have the feeling that I fully understood Brodie – I was virtually living inside his head – I believed that I was tuned into his line of thought and fully understood his (sometimes drastic) actions. I didn't know how was all going to play out but I really wanted some closure, some happiness for Brodie. And did I shed a tear when I reached the end? Yes, I'm afraid I did.

    Another superb offering form this brilliantly gifted writer, who I've admired for some years. I've now read a dozen or so of his books and I'm blown away by his inventiveness, the diversity of his stories and above all the way in which, in his best work, he invites the reader to become a part of the story – to become, in fact, the lead character and to experience their life as if it were your own. Quite a trick that.

    My sincere thanks to Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Jill

    Like the inner workings of a finely-tuned piano, the harmony of William Boyd’s Love is Blind is the work of true craftsmanship that is sensed more than outwardly observed.

    On the surface, it’s a rousing good yarn – a book that is, among other things, a novel about the fine art of piano tuning (Brodie Moncur, the protagonist, practices that profession), about love, passion, and revenge, and about how fateful encounters can change the trajectory of one’s life. It’s page-turning and immersing.

    Brodie

    Like the inner workings of a finely-tuned piano, the harmony of William Boyd’s Love is Blind is the work of true craftsmanship that is sensed more than outwardly observed.

    On the surface, it’s a rousing good yarn – a book that is, among other things, a novel about the fine art of piano tuning (Brodie Moncur, the protagonist, practices that profession), about love, passion, and revenge, and about how fateful encounters can change the trajectory of one’s life. It’s page-turning and immersing.

    Brodie experiences both an internal and external journey after falling under the spell of a Russian soprano, Lika Bloom, who happens to already be in a relationship with “the Irish Liszt”, a prodigious piano player named John Kilbarron who is managed by his sinister brother Malachi. His passion for her will take him from Scotland to Paris to St. Petersburg and to the Andaman islands.

    Throughout, there are hints of Chekhov – one of his most famous short stories “The Lady with the Little Dog”, the name Lika (in Googling that name, I discovered that Chekhov was also passionate about a singer named Chekhov), the Russian overtones. I suspect there are even more references that I overlooked, having read some of Chekhov years ago.

    The title, Love is Blind, offers yet more layers. Brodie is, indeed, near-blind—he can’t see well at all without both the lenses in his Franklin spectacles. It’s a metaphor, of course, that the reader must take care not to trust Brodie’s “vision” of events. Add to that the fact that Brodie suffers from tuberculosis and is under the hand of the ticking clock and the tension is riveted up even higher.

    Each of William Boyd’s fans—and I am one of them—will have his or her own favorites. I have loved Any Human Heart and the more recent Waiting for Sunrise. In my estimation, Love is Blind can stand confidently with those masterfully-written books.

  • Paromjit

    This has all the inimitable style and qualities of an epic character driven William Boyd novel, of love, passion, obsession and music within a historical period presaging the great changes in the world at the end of the nineteenth century. This is a beautifully written and structured story of the life of the young Scottish Brodie Moncur, afflicted with health issues, employed at the Channon Piano Company in Edinburgh, when he is offered the opportunity to work in their Paris outlet which he ferv

    This has all the inimitable style and qualities of an epic character driven William Boyd novel, of love, passion, obsession and music within a historical period presaging the great changes in the world at the end of the nineteenth century. This is a beautifully written and structured story of the life of the young Scottish Brodie Moncur, afflicted with health issues, employed at the Channon Piano Company in Edinburgh, when he is offered the opportunity to work in their Paris outlet which he fervently grasps with both hands. It means that he can escape the clutches of his unbearably grotesque, hypocrital and bullying preacher father, Malky. The source of the rancour that Malky directs towards his son is not made clear. This is a tale that features numerous locations including Europe, Russia and the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean, taking in music, love, betrayal, revenge, and secrets with its wide cast of characters.

    Brodie is a gifted piano tuner, and Boyd goes into some depth to give us detailed insights of all that this involves. The ambitious and energetic Brodie is inspired to move the business in innovative and risky new directions, despite obstacles, in his efforts to increase sales when he brings in the talented pianist, John Kilbarron, 'The Irish Liszt'. Kilbarron's amour is the beautifully arresting Russian opera singer, Lika Blum, a woman Brodie falls for hook, line and sinker, a passion that will have devastating repercussions on his future. Malachi, Kilbarron's brother and business manager is a particularly brutal and malign presence. Boyd delineates Brodie's relationship through the years, his travels, the dangers, a man that gambles with his own system.

    Boyd presents us with a chaotic and challenging life conjured by the blindness of love in all its aspects and how it shapes up to be infinitely testing of the human heart. This is a fabulously immersive read, set in turbulent times for the world, a turbulence that is mirrored in the gripping and compelling Brodie's life with the enigmatic Lika. A particular highlight for me was Boyd's skill in making the era come alive with his rich vibrant descriptions. An emotionally affecting and memorable book. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Penguin UK for an ARC.

  • Esil

    Reading a William Boyd novel ensures a view of history, some travel and a somewhat naive main character trying to make sense of the world. Love Is Blind is no exception. The novel is set in the late 19th and early 20th century, focusing on Brodie Moncur, a Scottish piano tuner. Brodie comes from a large dysfunctional family near Glasgow, and he is fortunate to be sent off to Paris to work for a Scottish piano manufacturer. There, he meets Lida, a Russian singer, thereafter becoming blinded by lo

    Reading a William Boyd novel ensures a view of history, some travel and a somewhat naive main character trying to make sense of the world. Love Is Blind is no exception. The novel is set in the late 19th and early 20th century, focusing on Brodie Moncur, a Scottish piano tuner. Brodie comes from a large dysfunctional family near Glasgow, and he is fortunate to be sent off to Paris to work for a Scottish piano manufacturer. There, he meets Lida, a Russian singer, thereafter becoming blinded by love. The story is somewhat of a picaresque, moving to many countries, where Brodie meets various people as he pursues Lida, vying for her competing attentions. Brodie’s poor eyesight is a pretty stark metaphor for his lack of insight — as is the title. Yet, it’s hard not to like him and root for him. I found Love Is Blind hard to put down — entertaining and smartly constructed. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  • Silvia

    *3.5*

    "Love is Blind" is the bittersweet story of Brodie Moncur, a young Scotish man who fixes pianos for a job, in the late 1800s. But the new century is coming, and so are a lot of changes in Brodie's life. He will fall deeply in love with a Russian soprano, Lika, and this love will perpetuate for all his life, through thick and thin, and through difficulti but wonderful times.

    I must admit that I've nev

    *3.5*

    "Love is Blind" is the bittersweet story of Brodie Moncur, a young Scotish man who fixes pianos for a job, in the late 1800s. But the new century is coming, and so are a lot of changes in Brodie's life. He will fall deeply in love with a Russian soprano, Lika, and this love will perpetuate for all his life, through thick and thin, and through difficulti but wonderful times.

    I must admit that I've never read anything by William Boyd, I requested a digital copy of this book only becuase I'm a sucker for historical ficiton set in the 1800s in England, but this story is so much more.

    First of all because it is set all around the world, and that solely is truly fascinating. And Boyd has a wonderful way with words. He has the magical ability to create vivid settings (more than vivid characters), and for this reason I was fully in the story.

    The characters were a little bit flat in my opinion. The love in the title really is blind, cause the two main characters meet once and are already in love, but I can get over that, it seems believable considering the strong passions of that time. Love was very different from what we experience today, and at the same time purer, in my opinion.

    Lika was... Lika. I didn't truly comprehend her reasons and the plot twist was a little bit predictable for me, we had all the clues, but at the same time I truly don't understand why she did what she did.

    The story in certain points seemed to drag a little too much for my tastes, and the same events took place over and over again. And then again.

    The ending too was quite clichey but at the same time frustrating.

    But beside that I'm glad I've read this book, it's a fascinating story for sure, set in a wonderful time in our history.

  • Chrissie

    Look at the title, it says it all. This is first and foremost a love story, or rather, multiple love stories. Set at the turn of the 19th century, it is a period piece drawing the life of a Scot, Brodie Moncur. Look at the surname; if one is acquainted with French, one sees there a play on words. We follow Brodie from 1888, when he is eighteen, to 1906, in his mid-thirties, and from Edinburgh to Paris to Geneva to Nice to St. Petersburg to Biarritz to Vienna to Graz to Trieste to finally the Nic

    Look at the title, it says it all. This is first and foremost a love story, or rather, multiple love stories. Set at the turn of the 19th century, it is a period piece drawing the life of a Scot, Brodie Moncur. Look at the surname; if one is acquainted with French, one sees there a play on words. We follow Brodie from 1888, when he is eighteen, to 1906, in his mid-thirties, and from Edinburgh to Paris to Geneva to Nice to St. Petersburg to Biarritz to Vienna to Graz to Trieste to finally the Nicobar and Andaman Islands. Traveling from place to place we see the world he sees, and this

    enjoyable. The descriptions are delightful, accurate both in their detail and in their relaying of historical events of the time. The world of music and food and liquor and sex fill the pages.

    Brodie is a piano tuner gifted with absolute pitch. He has fallen rapturously in love with Lika Blum, a Russian soprano. It is just that there are numerous impediments to their love. We meet John Kilbarron, the so-called Irish Liszt, as well as his brother. One flips between sensual love scenes and suspense. One discovers what a “Lika kiss” is! There is a duel and one is battling consumption, a horrifyingly frightening disease.

    The plot plods on toward the conclusion, but one

    curious to discover how it will end. The ending is appropriate and the writing elegant. Along the way there are twists and turns and explanations that add credibility. For example, it made perfect sense to me that Brodie came to be

    .

    I listened to the audiobook narrated by Roy McMillan. At the beginning, I found it to be overdramatized. Also, the Scottish accent gave me trouble. The volume varied from too low one minute to too high the next. As one continues these problems disappear. French, German and Italian are all well performed. The more I was caught up in the story, the more I enjoyed the narration. The narration I have given four stars.

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  • Peter

    Despite Alexander Larman’s (Guardian) health check assuring us of Boyd’s ‘rapturous return to form’ thus persuading me to read my first Boyd novel in a couple of decades or so I found a little too much hat tipping with nods to Chekhov, Joyce (Shem & Stan [Jim/Stan : Shem/Shaun]) in Trieste, Margaret Mead’s anthropological studies (I wonder if I have this right? Mead’s studies were 20 years later) and as like as not much that I have missed; along with various Scottish myths (Bobby, a Skye ter

    Despite Alexander Larman’s (Guardian) health check assuring us of Boyd’s ‘rapturous return to form’ thus persuading me to read my first Boyd novel in a couple of decades or so I found a little too much hat tipping with nods to Chekhov, Joyce (Shem & Stan [Jim/Stan : Shem/Shaun]) in Trieste, Margaret Mead’s anthropological studies (I wonder if I have this right? Mead’s studies were 20 years later) and as like as not much that I have missed; along with various Scottish myths (Bobby, a Skye terrier becomes César, a Jack Russell) it all adds....humour?

    True: I always wanted to turn the page, but also true that some of the plot devices were clearly signaled very early on, however others came as a surprise.

    Several commentators below and in the papers have picked up on the excellent scenes between Moncur and his father, they have real drive and emotion - the other father son relationship, also dysfunctional, is between his boss Ainsley Channon and his son Calder - a theme for development perhaps?

  • Paul Fulcher

    In the TLS's recent Booker 50th anniversary edition, various past winners were asked about underrated authors that should have featured more in the prize's reckoning.

    suggested:

    (

    In the TLS's recent Booker 50th anniversary edition, various past winners were asked about underrated authors that should have featured more in the prize's reckoning.

    suggested:

    (

    )

    This commendation drew me to Boyd's new novel, Love is Blind, but I would be very surprised if it caused this year's panel to tary long in their deliberations.

    It's a straightforward (overly so) historical romance, set around the turn of the 19th Century around Europe, particularly in Scotland, Russia, Paris and the French coast (Nice, Biarritz).

    In the late 1890s, Brodie Moncur is an expert piano tuner, working for a Edinburgh based piano manufacturer, and when the chance arises for him to move to Paris to try to reinvigorate their showroom there he grasps it with both hands. There he meets and forms a business venture with John Kilbarron–“The Irish Liszt” - a brilliant pianist but with fading powers, but their professional relationship is soured as Brodie falls in love with Kilbarron's muse, the soprano Lika Brum. As the novel progresses, Moncur travels across Europe, finding work wherever he goes, following Lika, and pursued in turn by Kilbarron's vengeful brother and business manager, Malachi.

    Boyd's descriptive prose is his strong point, conjuring up the sights and sounds of the places and time:

    And he - via Lika's observation - particularly effectively compares the Scottish highlands to the Russian steppe:

    But Boyd is rather less successful conveying the historical background to the era, which is simply dropped in as lists of background events whenever Brodie picks up a newspaper:

    And the plot itself, while a reasonable page turner, was a little overwrought and contrived for my literary taste.

    A couple of particular bugbears for me in the book - although in each case one hopes the author was aware even if the characters aren't.

    First, at one key point, Brodie's tyrannical father, Malky Moncur, a famously impassioned, if rather hypocritical, preacher, bases a sermon on an Apocryphal text to indirectly condemn his son: but the verses quoted bear no resemblance to any version of Baruch 6 I have seen (did Malky simply invent them? or Boyd?)

    The second bothered me more. As Brodie and Lika travel around, the novel tells us

    Brodie describes his 'foolproof' system:

    Except of course this system is based on a mathematical fallacy. Even if the chances of winning were genuinely 2-to-1 (in practice, roulette is biased to the house) the expected winnings are zero. The last sentence highlights why - you don't just need a 'substantial float', you need an infinite one (and a casino prepared to extend you infinite credit lines). Sooner or later, the gambler will lose his entire float, the losses from which will balance out the modest winnings. I assumed that the flaw in the system would ultimately form a key plot point - but when it didn't it caused me to wonder if the author saw the flaw.

    Overall, a pleasant but not particularly stimulating read. 3 stars less one for the dubious scriptural and mathematical references.

    Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.

  • Roman Clodia

    Well, there are ways to write about physical love, lust and desire but this isn't it - for me, at any rate. Boyd's prose is no more than workmanlike in this book which manages to be both bogged down in detail (why do we need to know precisely which brand of cigarettes each character

    Well, there are ways to write about physical love, lust and desire but this isn't it - for me, at any rate. Boyd's prose is no more than workmanlike in this book which manages to be both bogged down in detail (why do we need to know precisely which brand of cigarettes each character smokes? Oh yes, because Boyd researched them) and simultaneously skim the surface when it comes to the personal relationships supposedly at the heart of this book. I never felt, either, that these were people who had grown up in the Victorian period or late nineteenth century - the way they think, speak and act feels utterly contemporary.

    The musical backdrop is done well but everything else felt overdramatic, almost operatic, but without the fantasy element that opera uses to, paradoxically, make us 'believe':

    .

    To me this feels overly simple and simplistic in writing and imaginative vision. There are lots of female breasts (lots) and quite a lot of masturbation (not explicit) all of which render sex as a transaction rather than something more emotional, no matter how many times Brodie swears his undying (ha!) love to Lika: 'Brodie kept a running calculation: from September 1898 to May 1899 - no sexual congress with Lika... masturbation was only the briefest consolation.'

    On the plus side, there's quite a lot of story here as the tale sweeps from Edinburgh to Paris to St Petersburg and then swoops off to the Andaman Islands. Personally, I found the whole thing rather thin and uninvolving - as an evocation of erotic love, I didn't believe this for a second.

    Thanks to the publisher for an ARC via NetGalley

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