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A blue afternoon (book review)

20 May 2017

Blue AfternoonBlue Afternoon by William Boyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good read with some odd flaws, and I learnt quite a lot that I didn’t know before.

Kay Fischer, a Los Angeles architect, is accosted by a man who claims to be her father. When things go wrong in her architecture practice she allows herself to be persuaded to travel with him to Europe in search of a lost love. He was originally from the Philippines, and so much of the story takes place there.

I suppose one thing that appealed to me about it is that it was a family history mystery, with elements of a whodunit police-procedural mystery as well, and partly a love story, and partly a historical novel including the history of surgery, powered flight, police procedures and the Philippino-American War.

I knew a little of the first two (surgery and powered flight) but nothing of the Philippino-American War or the Spanish-American War which preceded it. For years and years I have heard how the British were inventors of concentration camps in the Anglo-Boer War, but in this book I discovered that the Americans used them too in the contemporary Philippino-American War, and that the American atrocities in the Philippines matched those of the Nazi SS Einsatzgruppen in the Second World War. In that sense it was quite an educational read as well.

There were also some niggling errors, perhaps because I’m still a language pedant. I would expect an American architect from Los Angeles to use American English terms, but she uses terms that sound unlikely: she speaks of luggage, not baggage; sweets, not candy; trams, not streetcars, and on one occasion uses lift rather than elevator. And the pioneering aircraft, dubbed by its builder an “aeromobile” for want of a better term is called a “plane” a couple of sentences later, which sounds rather incongruous.

But all-in-all it’s a very good read.

View all my reviews

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dale Nelson permalink
    24 May 2017 12:23 am

    “Luggage” and “streetcars” sound American to this California-born North Dakotan. “Lift” rather than “elevator” a mistake if the voice is supposed to be American. “Sweets” rather than “candy” not the better choice but not a glaring mistake.

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