BY WILLIAM BOYD
William Boyd is one of the Den’s favourite authors and 'Trio' is a thoroughly enjoyable page turner. Set in 1968 Brighton, the story centres round three characters involved in the shooting of a ridiculously long titled film called “Emily Bracegirdle’s Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon”.
The trio in question are Talbot Kydd, Anny Viklund and Elfrida Wing – all 3 have a public persona hiding the inevitable personal secrets which Boyd’s charming and sensitive story-telling beautifully unravels. Talbot is the middle-aged, ex-army producer who deftly manages every set back a film in production has to offer yet is unable to acknowledge his own identity. Anny is the famous American actress and film’s lead who is typically neurotic, lives off pills and begins an affair with the leading man. Her life is further complicated when her ex-husband with a dubious past turns up in Brighton. Elfrida Wing is married to the film’s director Reggie (or Rodrigo as he now wants to be called!). Previously a successful novelist, she now has writer’s block, drinks too much and has become trapped in an unhappy marriage. Boyd cleverly builds up the momentum for our trio who have to face their demons and secrets – will their self-deception be revealed and what will be the outcome?
Boyd also weaves in an array of somewhat stereotypical but beautifully observed side characters including Troy - the pop star turned actor from Swindon who falls for Anny; Kenneth Kincade the razor-sharp private investigator hired by Talbot and cameo roles such as Dr Ingham, the strong Irish GP. These skilfully perceived personalities add wit, sensitivity and honesty to the story. All this is set against the backdrop of Brighton in the 60s just as homosexuality has been legalised (following the '1967 Sexual Offences Act').
The only criticism the Den had about this book, is that as a reader you may feel Boyd has played it safe, there is never a real sense of jeopardy or menace and there is a certain sense of predictability with some of the storylines. However, it is a charming and warm hearted read.