By William Boyd
William Boyd’s masterful new novel tells, in a chain of intimate journals, the tale of Logan Mountstuart—writer, lover, paintings broker, spy—as he makes his usually precarious approach throughout the 20th century.
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He certainly made mincemeat of us,” the English boy said. “I’d mincemeat the bastard,” Gregson said. “Next time I’ll have that gun. ” The violence of this shout drove the boy in fear from the deck and haunted him with constant terror as he made tea in the galley below. His movements were automatic and thoughtless in the little cabin between the 46 THE CRUISE OF THE BREADWINNER bunks. He did not need any processes of deduction to know what he might expect when he went on deck again. This time he put the mugs of tea on an iron tray, so that he could carry them in a single journey.
They seemed to have an existence independent of the rest of his body. Gregson became aware that if he lifted him the legs would simply hang down, powerless, like lumps of loose rubber. He heard the German gasping deeply for breath. Gregson laid him back on the deck. “Easy,” he said. “Easy. ” It was raining quite fast now, but the German, lying rigidly back, staring upward and swallowing his breath in rain and heavy gasps of pain, seemed glad to receive it on his face. He opened his lips, and as the drops fell into his mouth he licked them in relief with his tongue.
I’m sorry,” he said. “But he didn’t do it. He’s not the type. You give him tea, anyway. ” “Ah, all right,” Gregson said. “Go on. What’s the odds? That’s right. What’s the odds? What’s it matter? ” He furiously threw his cigarette packet and matches across to the German. 50 THE CRUISE OF THE BREADWINNER They lay on the German’s chest. He did not pick them up. Gregson seized bitterly on this signiﬁcant fact, making much of it. “Too proud to take ’em, anyway. Lower your bloody self to give ’em all you got and then they bleedin’ insult you.
Any Human Heart by William Boyd