Sweet Caress by William Boyd review – love and war in the 20th century

Boyd makes an effective use of real-life pictures to illustrate this photographer’s brisk account of her life

Amory Clay is at boarding school and working her way through the standard teenage rebellions – smoking, sexual experimentation, talking back to a headteacher who’d like to persuade her to try for Oxford – when her father arrives on an unexpected visit. He is cheery, handsome and confident, a successful short-story writer who has produced nothing since service in the trenches. He takes her for a drive in the countryside, past where she thinks they might stop, towards a castle – perhaps there is a tea shop? – but no, they keep going, right into a lake. No one dies (he was misinformed about its depth), but she is thus notified how war and the effects of war will run through her 20th-century life like a rotten seam, cracking open what seems solid ground, twisting ...