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Love is Blind by William Boyd: A Deep Dive into the Novel


William Boyd, an acclaimed novelist known for his expansive and immersive storytelling, captivates readers once again with Love is Blind. This novel, set at the end of the 19th century, weaves a tale of passion, betrayal, and the relentless pursuit of love and ambition. Spanning various exotic locales and featuring richly developed characters, Love is Blind is a testament to Boyd's mastery of historical fiction and his deep understanding of human nature.

Overview of the Plot

Love is Blind follows the life of Brodie Moncur, a young Scottish piano tuner with a remarkable gift: perfect pitch and an unparalleled ability to fine-tune pianos. The novel begins in Edinburgh, where Brodie's talent catches the attention of the wealthy and influential Channon & Co., a prestigious piano manufacturer. This opportunity sets the stage for Brodie's journey from Scotland to Paris, and eventually across Europe.

In Paris, Brodie becomes entangled with John Kilbarron, a celebrated but aging Irish pianist, whose career Brodie helps to sustain through his expert tuning. It is here that Brodie meets Lika Blum, Kilbarron's lover, and begins a passionate and clandestine affair with her. This relationship propels the narrative forward, as Brodie and Lika navigate the dangers posed by Kilbarron's vengeful brother, Malachi.

Themes and Motifs

Love and Obsession

At its heart, Love is Blind is a meditation on the nature of love and obsession. Brodie's infatuation with Lika blinds him to the dangers and moral compromises he must make. This theme is underscored by the title itself, which suggests that love can obscure judgment and lead to unforeseen consequences.

Ambition and Betrayal

Brodie's journey is also one of ambition. His drive to escape his oppressive family life and achieve greatness in his field mirrors the broader human quest for purpose and recognition. However, this ambition is fraught with betrayal—both by those he trusts and by his own actions.

Music and Artistry

Music is a central motif in the novel, symbolizing both beauty and the transitory nature of life. Brodie's skill as a piano tuner not only serves as the means of his escape but also represents his connection to the sublime. Boyd's detailed descriptions of the piano tuning process and the performances add a rich, sensory layer to the narrative.

Character Analysis

Brodie Moncur

Brodie is a compelling protagonist whose life is marked by a series of dramatic turns. His talent sets him apart, but it is his emotional depth and vulnerabilities that make him relatable. As he navigates love, illness, and danger, Brodie evolves from an ambitious youth to a man shaped by his experiences and losses.

Lika Blum

Lika is a complex character whose beauty and talent captivate Brodie. She is both a muse and a tragic figure, embodying the duality of inspiration and downfall. Her relationship with Brodie is passionate but fraught with peril, reflecting the novel's broader themes of love and risk.

John and Malachi Kilbarron

The Kilbarron brothers represent two sides of the same coin: John, the brilliant but deteriorating artist, and Malachi, the vengeful and manipulative sibling. Their interactions with Brodie drive much of the novel's tension and underscore the destructive potential of familial and professional rivalries.

Writing Style

William Boyd's writing in Love is Blind is characterized by its elegance and precision. His prose is both descriptive and economical, creating vivid images without overwhelming the reader. Boyd's ability to capture the nuances of different settings—from the bustling streets of Paris to the exotic locales of St. Petersburg and Trieste—enhances the novel's immersive quality.

Reception and Impact

Love is Blind has been lauded for its rich character development, intricate plot, and historical accuracy. Critics have praised Boyd's ability to blend personal drama with broader historical contexts, making the novel both emotionally engaging and intellectually stimulating.

  • New Statesman highlighted Boyd’s ability to create a sweet-natured outsider in Brodie, comparing his style to Chekhov for its focus on character and psychological depth.

  • Washington Independent Review of Books commended the novel for its timeless plot and elegant writing, noting Boyd's skill in creating a globe-spanning tale filled with passion and conflict.

  • Literary Review appreciated Boyd's meticulous attention to detail and his ability to craft a narrative that feels both expansive and intimate.


Love is Blind by William Boyd is a masterful exploration of love, ambition, and the human condition set against the backdrop of turn-of-the-century Europe. Through the character of Brodie Moncur, Boyd weaves a tale that is both deeply personal and universally resonant. The novel's rich thematic content, coupled with Boyd's elegant prose and detailed historical setting, makes it a standout work in contemporary fiction.

For readers seeking a novel that combines historical depth with emotional intensity, Love is Blind offers a compelling and rewarding experience. Boyd's nuanced characters and intricate plot ensure that the story will stay with readers long after they turn the final page. Whether you are a long-time fan of William Boyd or new to his work, this novel is a testament to his enduring talent and storytelling prowess.

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FAQ for Love is Blind by William Boyd

1. What is Love is Blind about? Love is Blind follows Brodie Moncur, a talented Scottish piano tuner at the end of the 19th century. The novel spans various locations in Europe as Brodie's life becomes entwined with a famous pianist, John Kilbarron, and his beautiful Russian lover, Lika Blum.

2. Who is the main character? The main character is Brodie Moncur, a gifted piano tuner with perfect pitch whose life changes dramatically due to his professional and personal relationships.

3. What are the main themes? The novel explores themes of love and obsession, ambition and betrayal, and the transformative power of music and artistry.

4. What genre does the book belong to? The book is a historical fiction novel with elements of romance and drama.

5. Who would enjoy this book? Readers who enjoy richly detailed historical settings, complex character dynamics, and themes of love and ambition will appreciate this book.

6. How does the novel portray the theme of love? Love is portrayed as a powerful but often blinding force, leading characters into passionate but dangerous entanglements that drive the plot forward.

7. What role does music play in the story? Music is central to the story, symbolizing beauty and artistry. Brodie's skill as a piano tuner connects him to the other main characters and drives much of the plot.

8. What locations are featured in the novel? The novel features various European locations, including Paris, St. Petersburg, Nice, Trieste, and exotic islands near Malaysia.

9. How has Love is Blind been received by critics? The novel has been praised for its elegant prose, rich historical detail, and compelling narrative. Critics have highlighted Boyd's ability to blend personal drama with broader historical contexts.

10. Where can I purchase Love is Blind? The book is available at major bookstores and online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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