Waiting for Sunrise is a discursive (meaning: wandering) psychological novel that evolves into a mystery thriller set in the World War I era.
Our hero, Lysander Rief, a young Englishman, has traveled to Vienna for a cure: he can attain an erection and have sex but not experience an orgasm.
From start to finish, whether in the third person or through Lysander’s notebooks in the first person, the prose is vivid and engaging. Of course there’s a psychoanalyst involved, but he quickly gives way to Lysander’s interest in another patient (met in the waiting room) who is better at providing orgasms than the psychoanalyst.
The novel then succumbs to one of a series of unexpected breaks or leaps in the action. These include Lysander suddenly being accused of raping the other patient (not true); Lysander effecting a nifty escape from captivity in Vienna (not plausible); Lysander being drawn into an effort to identify a traitor in Britain’s WWI war machine (ah...we now see that Lysander the man of feelings and private issues isn’t quite the object of the novel...not very plausibly); Lysander being shot several times point blank and surviving; Lysander discovering that somehow his mother has been drawn into the traitor’s plot; Lysander solving the mystery; Lysander being saved in the nick of time by his uncle’s marksmanship; and Lysander settling on a marriage to the woman he once was engaged to and now finds, all things considered, a safer domestic bet than some of his other flings.
So...it’s fun to read; it exhibits something of what we have come to call “dry wit;” it sacrifices depth of character exploration to quick moving events and unusual figures who slip quickly before our eyes...and sure, I’d recommend it. Boyd is good at creating scenes in specific locations; he is unsteady but forgivable in his wait-a-minute-there switchbacks in plotting; and Lysander somehow becomes tougher and more mature and practical without Boyd really demonstrating why he ought to have grown as much as he seems to have by novel’s end.
I’d give this novel a B. A publisher would probably give it an A-. It’s sort of TV on the page, but good TV on the page.
Causes Robert Earle Supports
World Wildlife Fund