Trio by William Boyd was unlike anything I have previously read by this author.
The story was set in Brighton in the late 1960s and followed a group of people working together to make a film.
The novel’s main character was the producer, Talbot Kydd. Talbot was rich, kind and a gentleman. The day to day irritations of Talbot’s job involved keeping the ego and mad ideas of the film’s director in check, ensuring the film’s stars turned up to work and stopping crew members from stealing film to make pornographic movies.
The director’s wife, renowned author Elfrida Wing was a barely-functioning alcoholic who hadn’t written anything in ten years. When Elfrida came up with an idea for a new novel based on Virginia Woolf, who Elfrida’s own writing was often compared to, Elfrida bailed up Woolf’s husband Leonard in his own garden and asked him about the events of the day his wife suicided. I don’t think I’ve ever cringed more while reading a novel.
The third main character was Anny Viklund, the star of the movie. Anny was a victim of her own stupidity when it came to men. During her time on the film she had an affair with her co-star, a sweet English pop star who took Anny home to meet his parents, but was at the same time assisting her terrorist ex-husband who had escaped from jail and trying to please her current lover, a French philosopher.
None of the character’s private lives crossed over into each others’, although their stories co-existed comfortably. Each of the characters had secrets and problems to endure. Talbot was secretly gay and had a life his wife and son knew nothing about (nothing sordid, more a secret life), Anny was secretive about her drug use and juggling her various relationships, while Elfrida was hiding alcoholism and the fact that she knew her husband was having an affair with the film’s scriptwriter.
When I think about Trio in future I expect I’ll recall Elfrida’s obtuseness during her conversation with the fictional Leonard Woolf. This made me wonder if authors are so single-minded when they are immersed in writing a novel that they don’t consider or care that their research may potentially be offensive, or if William Boyd used this scene to make fun of real authors or even of himself.
Trio wasn’t my favourite of Boyd’s novels, but the Elfrida-Leonard Woolf scene might make it the most memorable.