Trio by William Boyd review – lights, camera, chaos

The secret lives of three characters on a 1960s film set make for the novelist’s funniest book in years

WH Auden said of TS Eliot that three different figures coexisted within him: a conscientious churchwarden, a screaming peasant woman and a mischievous 12-year-old boy. Much the same is true of William Boyd, whose novels have consistently left readers wondering who the “real” author is. Some of his comic writing suggests a kinship with Evelyn Waugh as a farceur of rare talent, but other books hint that he is a very un-English talent indeed, as befits his upbringing in Ghana, Nigeria and Scotland. For all his skill at constructing page-turning narratives, there is an ostentatious delight in game-playing that almost makes him the novelistic equivalent of Tom Stoppard.

That was especially true of his last book, the excellent Love Is Blind, which filtered Chekhovian pathos through a postmodern take on the Scottish Enlightenment genre, and continues to be the case in this, his 16th novel. Set in 1968, Trio revolves around three stories, connected by the Brighton production of a terrible-sounding film called Emily Bracegirdle’s Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon.

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