Sweet Caress

Sweet Caress

The Many Lives of Amory Clay

Book - 2016
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From the internationally bestselling author of Any Human Heart, Restless, and Waiting for Sunrise, a compelling story of one woman's extraordinary life, and a heart-wrenching tale of love and war in the twentieth century.

Amory Clay's first memory is of her father standing on his head. But his absences, both actual and emotional, are what she chiefly remembers. It is her photographer uncle, Greville, who supplies the emotional bond she needs, and who, when he gives her a camera and some photography lessons, unleashes a passion that will irrevocably shape her future.

She begins an apprenticeship with Greville in London, photographing socialites for the magazine Beau Monde. But Amory is hungry for more, and her search for life, love and artistic expression takes her to the demi-monde of Berlin in the late '20s, to New York in the '30s, to the blackshirt riots in London and to France in the Second World War, where she becomes one of the first female war photographers. Her desire for experience leads Amory to further wars and to lovers, husbands and children as she continues to pursue her dreams and battle her demons.

In this enthralling story of a life fully lived, William Boyd has created a sweeping panorama of some of the most defining moments of modern history, told through the camera lens of one unforgettable woman, Amory Clay.

Publisher: Toronto : Harper Perennial, 2016.
Edition: Trade paperback edition.
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9781443444873
Branch Call Number: FIC BOYD
Characteristics: ix, 449 pages : illustrations


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ArapahoeAnnaL Jul 10, 2018

Literary historical fiction at its best! Themes of passionate love and the personal toll of war run throughout this first person narrative of a woman's life from her birth in 1908 to her death 74 years later. Amory Clay becomes a war photographer who covers both World War II and the Vietnam War. In between she lives a full life that includes time in Paris between the wars and after the liberation. She spends her later years on an island off the Scottish coast in a home given to her by her late husband's first wife.

Apr 01, 2018

I really enjoyed this book by William Boyd. The clever use of old black and white photos make this story seem so real and brings the characters to life as if it is a real biography!
An excellent read and thoroughly recommended!

Nov 27, 2017

I enjoyed this book quite a bit and had to keep reminding myself that it was a fictional story. It is a novel written by a male author as an autobiography of a female photographer. The supposed life of the photographic journalist is quite realistic and would have made an interesting life if it were true. The use of fuzzy photographs throughout the novel keep the fiction of an autobiography in the reader's mind even though the photos are all really bad. The descriptions of the photographer's female medical issues don't ring true - probably because the book is written by a man. Still it was an interesting story.

Dec 11, 2016

A story of the twentieth century told through the life of a fictionalized war photographer, written as a biography, complete with pictures. Boyd is sometimes too clever.

Aug 25, 2016

Amory Clay, a feisty female photographer who comes of age in the 1930s England and tells the story of her life through the 1970s, is touched by the men who experience the wars that define the 20th century. Her photographs illustrate the book—but remember, its fiction.

Boyd has written another book, inventive in its storytelling and so clever in its use of photography. I’m always amazed and delighted reading his work.

Mar 12, 2016

Sweet Caress - Life, full and unadulterated

Sweet Caress is a fictional autobiography of a woman who lived an interesting life during tumultuous times.

Amory Clay was born in 1908 in England and died in 1983 and so experienced or was at least affected by two world wars, the great depression, the War in Vietnam and the social and sexual revolution of the sixties.

As a professional photographer Amory chronicles the changing times giving author William Boyd the opportunity to place her in the middle of the action which enhances the interesting and complicated personal life of his protagonist.

And interesting it is. Her career includes photographing members of high society in London to taking candid shots of the underside of pre-World War II Berlin. She's in New York shooting fashion then back to London working for a news magazine. She's on the front lines in Europe in 1944 and in Vietnam in 1967.

During that time she has an affair with her married boss, a relationship with a French writer, marries a Scottish Lord and has twin daughters.

Sweet Caress is about life - full and unadulterated. Love, heartbreak, birth, death, motherhood, family - it's a rich mix and Boyd keeps the narrative moving hitting the highs and lows, the successes and failures all the while giving us the insights of his remarkable heroine.

His writing is seamless and precise, the characters complicated and appealing, the settings vivid.

Boyd is able to capture the uncertainty of life, how events and other people shape our destiny as much or more than we consciously do ourselves. How seemingly chance meetings and random acts chart our lives. How man plans and God laughs.

Boyd has interspersed photographs and captions throughout this book perhaps to give the reader the experience of reading a journal. However I found these pictures unnecessary. Rather than enhancing the novel they proved disconcerting for two reasons.

I create my own image of the characters I'm reading about. Suddenly seeing them in black and white and having them look nothing like I imagined was off-putting. The second reason is the photographs are very amateur and of poor quality in concept and execution - hardy the work of a professional which, for me, eroded Amory's credibility. It was a good idea that didn't work.

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