Waiting for Sunrise
In Boyd’s latest literary adventure (after Ordinary Thunderstorms, 2010), a young English actor begins a life of deception off-stage, mostly for good ends, just as war breaks out in Europe.
In the summer of 1914, young Lysander Rief is in Vienna to undergo psychoanalysis (for a sexual problem soon cured) when a passionate affair with a female patient gets him into serious trouble with the local police. Liberated with the help of a British attaché and a Royal naval officer, Rief sneaks out of Austria in disguise.
Back in London, Rief, now in debt to his liberators, is tapped for undercover work. Leaving his real identity behind on the Western front, where is he supposedly killed, Rief reappears in the guise of a lieutenant assigned to the War Office. His mission: to uncover a traitor providing the Germans with information on British war plans.
Rief comes from a good family; he has the look and manner of a gentleman. Along with his acting skills, fluent German, and an instinct for self-protection, this should make him the perfect spy. For one who seeks clarity or, in other words, the sunrise, Rief doesn’t ask enough questions. Operating in dangerous territory, he has to improvise or learn the hard way, which is far more exciting for the reader, albeit risky for a spy.
Waiting for Sunrise is a wartime spy story and, to a lesser degree, a love story. Told from Rief’s point of view, sometimes in third, sometimes in first person, it is also a story of self-discovery. Even at the dénouement, Lysander Rief is still learning, which makes Waiting for Sunrise, like all William Boyd’s novels, a Darn Good Story. Highly recommended.