Sweet Caress by William Boyd
William Boyd is a British author with a long list of novels to his name, including one of the new James Bond novels Solo.
Sweet Caress is his most recent, a novel chronicling the fictitious life of Amory Clay, a female photographer working during both the Second World War and the Vietnam War.
Amory is born into the sort of British family that is not quite wealthy but never poor. Her father is a man damaged by the First World War - a man who has a profound effect on Amory, and her siblings, brother Alexander and sister, known as Dido.
Amory knows early on that she wants to be a photographer regardless of the unsuitability of this career choice for a girl of her sort. But, determined, she finds a way and for the rest of her life her photographs are really the most important part of her life.
Sweet Caress has the feel of memoir, as Amory tells the story of her past, as well as writing about the present in 1977 in her journal. The novel is illustrated with photographs that are connected to the story but really are “found” photographs and add another element to the feeling that these are real people rather than the imagined people of a novel.
This is a novel about an independent woman, a woman who takes lovers, a woman who is unafraid to take calculated risks. A woman who re-examines her life as she faces what would be called a cross-roads – making choices that, of course, send her life in a particular direction, for better or for worse. It is an examination of marriage, of relationships between men and women, between siblings, between parents and children, and the conflicts and compromises that women face when confronted with the difficult choices between family and career.
Sweet Caress is a novel about a generation that grew up with their childhood shadowed by the First World War. Men and women who came of age during the Second World War, may well have participated in the war in Vietnam, and many of whom lived well into the end of the 20th century. Such dramatic times with more than enough history to provide the background to a life well lived and the makings of a terrific novel.