I enjoyed this collection of William Boyd’s miscellaneous writings. I’ve only read one of his novels, years ago, AN ICE-CREAM WAR. Nothing since. This made me think I might read more. I particularly liked his accounts of his rebarbative public school and his childhood in Africa. And the eulogies to two particular institutions, the British caff and the mini-cab – Boyd describes them perfectly, brought back fond memories of my life in London in the 1980s. Once a week or so (more would have been too hard on the arteries) my house-mate, Jonathan and I used to go to the Choumert Cafe in Peckham (long gone, sadly) and eat exactly the kind of meal described here. I usually had omelette and chips. This, served with fried tomatoes and mushrooms, was as healthy as it got. Another friend used to favour a caff near the Strand and consume sausages sandwiches (white bread and margarine, naturally). I shudder to think what was in those sausages. As for mini-cabs – I sometimes used to get one from Chiswick to Peckham – and Boyd is spot on – the driver with no English and no idea where he is going – the sticky carpet underfoot – the dodgy driving. I must have been mad.
This is a huge book at 650 pages and unwieldy, awkward to read in bed or the bath and this does matter. I think some of the early book reviews could have gone, but much of it was a treat – and in such short bites that it’s ideal for a busy person.