William Boyd’s “Trio” is an effortlessly realised portrait of an American actor (Anny Viklund) with an insidious ex-husband lurking in the background; a film producer (Talbot Kydd) struggling to reconcile his sexuality; and an alcoholic, formerly-lauded novelist, “the new Virginia Woolf” (Elfrida Wing), during the turbulent summer of 1968.
“Trio” reads every bit like the work of a seasoned novelist in absolute control of his craft; like Boyd had this fragment of an idea — three characters, whose lives are entwined because of a film shoot in Brighton for “Emily Bracegirdle’s Extremely Useful Ladder to the Moon,” whose lives are upended in quite separate circumstances, the machinations of which are felt by all — and simply sat down to write the story with his customary exquisitely graceful artistry.
I loved “Trio.” In fact, it might even be one of my favourite novels of the year. But there’s no denying there’s an element of “safeness” about it. Like Boyd is treading well-worn territory, refusing to risk colouring outside the lines.
“Trio” is a well-oiled machine. It thrums in all the right places thanks to its well-developed emotional core. Its examination of the complex ecosystem of the film business is played for equal parts drama and comedy. It’s a snapshot of a very distinct era, a tumultuous year, which saw North Vietnam launch the Tet Offensive against the United States and South Vietnam, and stirred a withdrawal of support for the war with Americans back home; the civil rights movement; the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
My overriding feeling upon turning its final page was a contented sigh, an acknowledgement of a job well done, when it felt like Boyd, evidently a grandmaster storyteller, is capable of so much more; of making me shattered, or ecstatic, or a hybrid of both. “Trio” is a great book, but it reads like Boyd is capable of even greater. That’s an exciting prospect.
Published: 20 October 2020
Format: Trade Paperback