William Boyd’s novel Restless, winner of the 2006 Costa Novel Award, describes the adventures of Eva, a young Russian émigrée, who is recruited for the British Secret Service during the Second World War. A gripping account of female resourcefulness, the story is told through a memoir that Eva writes for her daughter. In his latest novel, Sweet Caress, Boyd returns to the theme of a woman undertaking a traditionally male role. Once again, the novel moves back and forth between the present and the past as its heroine, Amory Clay, alone on a remote Scottish island and writing in her 70th year, recalls the events of her life. As in Restless, the novel balances the twin themes of love and work.
Amory is a photographer, one of relatively few women who became actively involved in reportage during the Second World War. This is fertile territory, recalling the derring-do of such real-life heroines as Lee Miller and the journalist Martha Gellhorn. Amory is given a camera on her seventh birthday by her uncle Greville, a society photographer. Having found her métier, she begins to see events through the viewpoint of a lens. Her autobiography is written as a series of snapshots, often taking