Two Novels: 'Klara and the Sun' and 'Waiting for Sunrise'

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January 28th 2023
Published: January 28th 2023
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Have just finished ‘Waiting for Sunrise’ by William Boyd. This is only the second new(ish) novel I’ve read in a long while. The other one, a few moths ago, was the ghastly ‘Klara and the Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro, who in 2017 won the Nobel for Literature. Quite undeserved in my view. Almost as bad as giving it to Bob Dylan. At the time I wrote the following about 'Klara and the Sun':

Have just finished ‘Klara and the Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. Very ordinary indeed. I read it to the end only because I had to - two of my students are studying it for IBDP English Literature. A very poor choice for an exam text IMO. It is a) quite long (300 pages) and therefore not student-friendly b) boring in every respect – boring plot, boring characters, no gripping scenes, not a single memorable sentence or paragraph. How certain critics can praise it to the skies is beyond me.

Klara is a solar-powered robot who belongs to a sick girl called Josie. The narrative is in the first person – through the eyes of Klara. That explains the flatness of the prose, I suppose.

After 200 pages I thought, optimistically, this might be a slow-burner with an exciting ending, but the ending is as bad as the rest of it – a massive anti-climax.

I think Ian McEwan could have taken the basic plot and written a far better novel.

Back to Boyd now.

Waiting for Sunrise’ is not really my cup of tea, but it has enormous strengths. Boyd is a wonderful prose stylist. The novel fizzes with life. It’s a real page-turner. Such a contrast with Ishiguro’s dreary narrative and leaden prose.

My problem with ‘Waiting for Sunrise’ is that it’s a spy thriller, a whodunit. Not who murdered someone but who leaked the state secrets. The plot is very intricate, leading to a climax where all is revealed. I've rarely liked this sort of book, which is why I don’t read Agatha Christie or John Le Carre. There are 2 exceptions, however: the Sherlock Holmes short stories and the novels and Dick Francis. I could read Dick Francis forever. The difference between a Dick Francis thriller and ‘Waiting for Sunrise’ is that Francis's plots are leaner and more focused. There is just too much going on in ‘Waiting for Sunrise’. But what a read! Boyd has crammed so many interesting things into one novel. Ultimately, though, this is its downfall; the lack of focus lessens the overall impact. The 429 pages took me 2 days. As I say, he has a beautiful way with words. But would I reread it? No.

I have read several other books by Boyd. ‘A Good Man in Africa’ may be the funniest novel I’ve ever read (along with ‘Lucky Jim’, Tom Sharpe and Clive James's memoirs). ‘The Blue Afternoon’ is Boyd's best. ‘Brazzaville Beach’ and ‘Armadillo’ are excellent.

I looked Boyd up on Wikipedia and he’s a clever sod. Taught at Oxford University for a while before having a smash hit with 'A Good Man in Africa'. Has written 17 novels and some screenplays. Has won a few literary prizes, but not the Booker.


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