Monday, September 24, 2018

Love Is Blind by William Boyd, a globe-spanning journey of passion and danger

Moving from Edinburgh in 1894 to the far-flung Andaman Islands in 1906, and smoothly landing in various European cities in between, Boyd’s (Sweet Caress, 2015) affecting novel follows a young Scotsman’s ardent pursuit of a woman and its treacherous consequences.

An appealing though naive protagonist, Brodie Moncur has perfect pitch, a gift he uses as an accomplished piano tuner. He agrees to help manage a Parisian piano showroom, but he hates leaving his siblings behind with their controlling preacher father in their rural village.

Brodie’s quest for a sponsorship arrangement for his employer’s business introduces him to the celebrated pianist John Kilbarron, his shifty brother, Malachi, and John’s mistress, Russian soprano Lika Blum; they all accompany Kilbarron on his concert tours. Brodie falls hard for Lika, which leads to clandestine meetings, a high-stress lifestyle, and, eventually, much worse.

Their relationship feels more like erotic passion than love, but the novel hauntingly depicts how strong emotions can skew one’s perceptions. Boyd beautifully paints the settings and the moods they evoke while sending readers on Brodie’s adventurous, troublesome, and transformative journey.

This review first appeared in Booklist's September 15th issue. Love Is Blind will be published by Knopf on October 9th.  In the UK, it was published by Viking on September 20th.  This is the first novel by Boyd that I've read. While it was a smoothly written and engaging read, the characters' emotions felt a bit distant in places.  If you've read any earlier novels of his, which ones would you recommend?


  1. First time I've heard of this book. Sounds compelling.

    1. I'd agree with that - it was a good read.

  2. I have never read this book before, but I find the idea of combining modern concepts such as an aspiring musician with historical norms at the time quite interesting.