Trio by William Boyd
1968 – one of the most turbulent years in history: the Vietnamese war, the assassination of Martin Luther King, student riots around the world and many other events shook human society. It is no coincidence that William Boyd chose this year in which to set his new novel Trio – a funny and intriguing story about the film industry in the 60s.
We find ourselves in Brighton, the production location of a promising movie, Emily Bracegirdle’s Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon. In a series of short chapters the author alternately introduces three protagonists: a young, beautiful and famous actress, Anny, who is addicted to a plethora of pills; Elfrida, once a successful writer, who has been unable to start a new book for ten years and secretly suffers from alcoholism; and a film producer, Talbot, who is struggling to recognise his sexual orientation. Each of them is connected to the world of filmmaking – an often hypocritical society where there is certainly a place for betrayal, dishonesty and fraud.
References to literature and politics reflect the spirit of the time and give the story a necessary depth: the life and works of Virginia Woolf, the ever-present shadow of war, an American terrorist, a radical French philosopher, massacres and protests in Paris. But Boyd builds his world not only by alluding to historical events – a real sense of the 60s comes alive in the dialogue, the small details and even in the effortlessly smooth narrative construction.
This novel is undoubtedly a very pleasurable read. The tone is light and ironic, and all the plot lines are connected into one fascinating tale that holds the reader’s interest and attention to the end, but even the sweetest honey can cloy. Boyd is a skilled writer, with sixteen novels, several plays and several short story collections to his name, but there is no room for bold literary experiments in Trio. Despite its entertaining narrative, this novel is unlikely to surprise its readers.
Photo: Trevor Leighton/Courtesy of Harper
Trio is published by Viking Books at the hardback price of £18.99, and is available in the UK on 8th November 2020. For further information visit here.