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Waiting for SunriseReview - Waiting for Sunrise
A Novel
by William Boyd
Harper Audio, 2012
Review by Christian Perring
Jun 5th 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 23)

Boyd's novel starts off in 1913 Vienna -- and so it inevitably features both psychoanalysis and the Great War.  Actor Lysander Rief comes to get treatment from an English psychoanalyst for a sexual problem -- he is able to perform for as long as he wants, but he can't finish, and so he is diagnosed with anorgasmia.   The treatment seems to work, or at least, he has no functional problems in his sexual relationship with an artist's common-law wife, Hettie Bull.  He does have other problems, however, when the husband discovers the affair and she accuses Rief of rape.  He is arrested and ends up having to escape from Austria back to England.  His fiancé is not happy with his affair and ends their engagement.  He ends up enlisting when the war starts, and this leads him to the front lines and the world of international espionage. 

The setting allows Boyd to provide details about Vienna and London in the 1910s, and to tell a complicated story combining theatre, the war, fashion, bohemian lifestyles, and diplomacy.  He has certainly done his homework since he fills his book with plenty of historical details, which will please readers who like that sort of thing.  It is entertaining and somewhat informative.  Unfortunately, the novel does not provide very much information about any particular aspect of life then; readers looking for a depiction of the early days of psychoanalysis will be especially disappointed.  Nevertheless, the sprawling story hangs together well and we see Rief changed by his experiences, learning from the duplicity and the scheming of others, and finding how to appreciate the qualities of good people. 

The unabridged audiobook is read by Robert Ian MacKenzie, whose reassuring tones make the listening experience a great pleasure.  He keeps the characters distinct and he is consistent for the whole 13 hours of the performance.

 

© 2012 Christian Perring        

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York


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